What To Do When You Suspect Abuse in a Nursing Home

Approximately 1.3 million Americans live in nursing homes. Do you have a loved one who lives in one of these facilities? Do you ever worry about issues like nursing home abuse?

If you suspect that a loved one is experiencing abuse in a nursing home, it’s important to take action. Read on to learn about signs of this abuse and what you can do to stop it.

Signs of Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes

The nursing signs of elder abuse aren’t always easy to spot. Here are some of the most well-known ones to keep in mind and look out for next time you’re visiting your loved one:

Signs of Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is one of the most well-known forms of elder abuse. The following are indicators that your loved one might be experiencing it at their nursing home:

  • Unexplained injuries (sprains, strains, broken bones, etc.)
  • Unexplained bruising, welts, or scars
  • Failing to take medications
  • Signs of restraints (rope marks on the wrists, for example)
  • Broken glasses or personal belongings

If a loved one is being physically abused, their caretaker might also try to prevent them from being alone with you. This is a big red flag for other types of abuse as well, as the caretaker likely has concerns that they’ll be reported.

Signs of Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse can be harder to spot than physical abuse. There are still some warning signs of which you should be aware, though.

For example, your loved one might exhibit unusual behavior similar to symptoms of dementia. This includes things like mumbling, rocking back and forth, or sucking their thumb. The caregiver might also appear to be belittling, controlling, or threatening toward your loved one.

Signs of Sexual Abuse

Elderly individuals can experience sexual abuse at the hands of their caregivers, too. The following are common signs to watch for:

  • Unexplained STDs
  • Unexplained genital infections
  • Bruising around the breasts or genitals
  • Stained, torn, or bloody underwear

Your loved one might also experience bleeding from the vagina or anus. If this bleeding is not medication-related, that should be a major cause of concern.

Signs of Neglect

Sometimes, elderly individuals are not physically harmed in their nursing home. They might be neglected, though, which can cause serious physical, mental, and emotional damage. Here are signs that your loved one is experiencing neglect:

  • Being left alone for long periods of time
  • Living in unsafe conditions with a lack of heat, air conditioning, or running water
  • Unsuitable dressing for particular weather conditions
  • Not being bathed
  • Being left with soiled bedclothes or dirty clothing
  • Bedsores

Weight loss and dehydration can also be indicators of neglect and abuse. This could be a sign that your loved one isn’t being fed or given water on a regular basis.

Signs of Financial Abuse

Some elders fall victim to financial abuse in nursing homes, too. Their caretaker could manipulate and take advantage of them in order to gain access to their finances. Some signs of this include:

  • Sudden changes in their financial situation
  • Unexplained bank account or ATM withdrawals
  • Missing cash
  • Changes in life insurance policies or wills

You might also notice the presence of unusual goods that your loved one doesn’t remember purchasing. If stuff starts piling up in their room, that’s a red flag.

Nursing Home Abuse Reporting: What to Do

If you suspect that nursing home abuse is taking place, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. Here are some steps you can take to get help for your loved one and hold the nursing home responsible:

Verify the Story

It’s important to verify the story before you start accusing caregivers of abusing your loved one. Take note of the warning signs you see and ask around to see if anyone else who is being cared for by the same person is experiencing similar issues. This research can help you build a stronger case. 

Look into Moving Your Loved One

You ought to look into moving your loved one to a different unit or to a different nursing home, too. Even if there’s not sufficient evidence to file a formal complaint, if they’re scared or showing signs of abuse, you need to get them out of the situation as soon as possible.

Contact the Authorities

If you believe you have sufficient evidence to verify the abuse of your loved one, contact the authorities. In most places, this means calling the police or the district attorney. By law in some states, you’re required to report abuse as soon as you learn that it’s occurred.

File a Complaint

You should also file a complaint with the nursing home. Tell them about the warning signs you’ve noticed and let them know that you’ll be taking action. you should also file a complaint with the department of social services in your state, as well as agencies for adult protective services and elder protective services.

Hire a Lawyer

You might want to consider hiring a lawyer, too. Look for a civil rights or personal injury attorney who specializes in nursing home injuries and elder abuse.

Keep in mind that filing a claim isn’t just for your loved one. It can also protect you and their other family members, too. If you’ve filed a personal injury claim, Justin Kimball from the Preszler Law Firm says that the Family Law Act can help your spouse or children receive compensation as well, but they’ll have to meet certain criteria to qualify for it.

Combat Abuse in a Nursing Home Today

Now that you know more about what abuse in a nursing home looks like, as well as what to do if you suspect a loved one is being abused, it’s time to act. Keep the information listed above in mind, especially the information on nursing home abuse reporting, so you can get your loved one the help they need.

If you’re looking for additional resources on caring for a loved one, we have plenty of health-related content on our site. Check it out today to learn more.