There are many good nursing homes available that monitor their staff and ensure residents are properly cared for where abuse is prevented. Unfortunately, that’s not the case at every nursing home. No one wants to think their loved one may be exposed to abuse of any kind, whether it’s accidental or deliberate. But it’s important to know what signs to watch for, so that if you suspect someone is abusing your loved one in a nursing home, you can act immediately and try to stop the abuse from continuing. Here are some things you need to know and to look for.

What Types of Abuse Take Place at Nursing Homes?

There are multiple types of abuse that take place at nursing homes. These include:

Physical abuse. This is perhaps one of the easier types of abuse to spot. Either this type of abuse leaves physical marks, such as bruises or scabs, or you may come across an employee engaged in physical abuse either deliberately inflicting pain or by handling the patient roughly during routine events, such as changing bedding. Even if you haven’t seen any physical signs, pay attention if your loved one shows signs of fear or withdrawal around certain staffers or even in general. 

Verbal abuse. Sometimes referred to as emotional abuse, this involves staff who yells at patients or treats them demoralizingly (calling them names, telling them they’re worthless, etc) can have just as bad outcomes as if someone was physically abused. It may also manifest as the staff ignoring the patient as if they’re not even there or refusing to engage with them in conversation or discourse around their treatment. The elderly can be emotionally and mentally fragile, and this type of abuse can make them feel even worse. 

Improper care and negligence. We mentioned that a patient who’s handled roughly during routine bedding changes is a victim of physical abuse. But the type of abuse known as improper care could mean that the bedding isn’t being changed at all. Improper care is usually a lack of care, including not getting a doctor or nurse involved when necessary, not treating illnesses or injuries, not providing enough food or water, or not keeping the patient clean. 

Financial abuse. Nursing home employees who take the patient’s assets without permission (and in many cases, nursing home employees are restricted to not accepting gifts from patients at all), such as valuable belongings or money, may have engaged in financial abuse. There have been cases where employees gained access to the patient’s bank or retirement accounts or forged checks to cash.

What Signs Should I Look for of Nursing Home Abuse?

Knowing the types of abuse that exist in nursing homes can help you be more alert for signs that any of them occur. Here are common symptoms of issues that need to be investigated:

Poor hygiene. Your loved one doesn’t appear to have bathed or washed their hair recently or have continual bad breath from potentially not getting the help they need brushing their teeth. You may also notice that the facility itself is not kept clean or free of pests, which can increase health risks to the patients. 

Change of weight. Your loved one is inexplicably losing weight, possibly because no one is giving them enough food. Lack of proper food and water can also show up in unusual fatigue, irritability, and papery skin.

Injuries including bruises and scars. Everyone can get the occasional bruise, especially someone elderly who may be more prone to bruising. But if this becomes a regular occurrence, especially if it coincides with changes in the person’s personality, this may be abuse. 

Changes in mental states. This can be anything from a normally extroverted person becoming withdrawn, someone calm becoming argumentative, or a confident person becoming insecure and fearful. There may be signs of depression, or the patient may be unwilling to have regular contact with their friends and family. This could be because the patient is being abused and threatened not to tell by an employee.

Frequent abandonment. Nursing homes should make sure patients stay active and mobile. But if the patient is left in their room or their wheelchair for hours on end, they may become more emotionally detached. They may also develop an inability to keep themselves upright or mobile as their muscles atrophy. 

Financial irregularities. If you have access to your loved one’s bank or retirement accounts, be sure to monitor them frequently to look for unexpected changes, especially in larger amounts of money being withdrawn or spent than you’d normally expect. Keep an eye on the possessions they keep in their room. If they can’t explain what’s been spent or gone missing, it may be time to consult a lawyer regarding guardianship. The lawyer can also advise you as to steps to take to investigate whether or not abuse is happening and what to do about it legally if it is. 

If I Suspect a Loved One Is Being Abused at Their Nursing Home, What Should I Do First?

Call us as soon as possible at 516-622-0606 for a free case evaluation. The faster we can get to work, the quicker we can work to stop the abuse and make sure those responsible for it are no longer caring for your loved one. We know how fraught and stressful these cases are. We want you to know we’re motivated to make the abuse disappear as soon as possible, so you can go back to enjoying your life–and your loved one can return to enjoying theirs.