10 Signs Your Loved One May Be Experiencing Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing home abuse is an egregious and all too common offense that has far-reaching effects for both patients and their loved ones. How common? ABC News reports that abuse may occur in up to one-third nursing homes across the United States. Abuse may range from physical abuse (e.g., assault, rape) to emotional abuse (e.g., insults, humiliation) to neglect (e.g., withholding food, water or care). Unfortunately, in many cases the signs of abuse are not obvious, and the victims are unable to speak for themselves. If you suspect your loved one may be experiencing nursing home abuse, here are some signals to look for.

1. Noticeable physical signs

Starting with the more obvious signals: If you start to notice bruising, cuts, scrapes, broken bones or other signs of injury, you should call a physician and an attorney right away. Even if it could be explained away as an accident, it might not be. A doctor can help you make that determination.

2. Torn clothing or bedding

Generally speaking, signs of torn bedding or clothes speak of possible violence. By the same token, if your loved one’s clothes start turning up missing, be vigilant. (Abusive staff may remove signs of evidence if clothes become bloody or damaged.)

3. Sudden changes in weight

If the nursing home patient inexplicably starts losing weight, ruling out a medical explanation, it’s a possible sign that she isn’t being fed consistently. Take your loved one to a doctor if you observe weight fluctuations of this nature.

4. Poor hygiene

Scents of body odor, urine and/or feces are all potential telltale signs of neglect. If your loved one needs help staying clean or using the toilet, chances are the staff is ignoring her.

5. Unexplained hair loss

When hair becomes dull and dry or starts falling out, it’s a sign of malnutrition. If this happens to your loved one apart from a medical reason (e.g., chemotherapy), seek help as soon as possible.

6. Bed sores

If you notice bed sores appearing on the nursing home patient’s body, it’s another sign that no one is looking in on her or making sure she gets enough activity.

7. Patient becomes unresponsive or withdrawn

In many cases, abuse begins to manifest in the patient’s behavior – especially if the abuse is emotional. If your loved one acts withdrawn and unresponsive beyond her normal patterns, she may be on the receiving end of abuse.

8. Patient becomes fearful of staff

If your nursing home patient grows tense, apprehensive or exhibits open fear when a staff member enters the room, you may be seeing a symptom of abuse. If your loved one displays fear of one person in particular, you might have a better idea where to investigate.

9. Patient reverts to childlike behavior

Many times, abusive patterns can cause childlike reversions in nursing home patients. If your loved one begins throwing tantrums or coils up in fetal position, take notice and get help.

10. Vague answers or deflections from staff

If you start asking questions about your loved one’s care and the staff avoids giving you clear answers, they may have something to hide. A common tactic is to say something like, “I don?t know the answer to your question, but I can find out?” except the staff member never follows through. Bear in mind that these and other potential signs of nursing home abuse are not necessarily proof of abuse. They are only indications that a problem may exist. That said, if you begin to suspect that your loved one is being victimized, don’t wait until you have proof. Instead, be willing to err on the side of caution; remove your loved one from that facility, take them to a doctor if necessary, and be sure to consult a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to discover your options. At Sutton Slover Law, we focus our attention exclusively on personal injury cases, including nursing home abuse and neglect. If you feel your loved one has been a victim, we can help you understand your options and fight to get the compensation to which your loved one is entitled. For a free case evaluation, call our office at 404.768.0292.