Signs That Your Loved One Is Suffering From Nursing Home Abuse

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When you take your ill or elderly family member to a nursing facility, you expect the best medical care for both their physical and mental needs. Sadly, about one-third of nursing homes are reported guilty of abusing residents, and because patients may not have full capacity to report or understand abuses, the poor treatment can continue. It is often left up to family members to notice signs of medical negligence or malpractice and to take legal action on behalf of the abused patient. Here are some signs you can look for that point to nursing home abuse or neglect.

1. A marked decline in your loved one's health or well-being

Often abuse or negligence in nursing homes will leave signs. However, these signs can be overlooked or written off as being caused by illness or by an inability to adjust to the new environment of a nursing home. You should not be quick to dismiss symptoms like:

  • Sudden weight loss. Even if your family member is battling an illness, sudden fluctuations in weight can be a sign of intentional abuse, usually withholding food as a punishment. It can also be a sign of negligence -- staff members may be forgetting about your loved one or they have failed to keep up with new nutritional demands. 
  • Dehydration. Dehydration is a common problem in neglectful situations, simply because the staff are not staying on top of the needs of each patient. Dehydration manifests itself more clearly than starvation, and so it is easier to diagnose. If your loved one is lethargic, has a dry mouth, or suffers from pale and pallid skin, you should document the case and take steps to make sure the problem does not continue.
  • Bruises. It's troubling to think that your loved one may be suffering at the hands of intentional physical abuse, but caretakers can lose patience with residents and resort to corporeal punishments or harsh assaults in order to achieve compliance.
  • Bed sores or recurrent infections. These are signs of neglect, as infections are often caused by poor hygiene treatment, and bed sores are a sign that your loved one is not getting enough exercise and spends too much time in one position without assistance. 

2. Increased levels of fear or depression

Along with physical manifestations of abuse, your loved one will have emotional signs that point to a violent or neglectful situation. These signs include:

  • Silence in the presence of staff member or a change in demeanor when certain staff members enter the room. Your loved one could be more fearful of special caretakers, and reluctance to speak or a sudden deference to them is a sign that something is not right.
  • Withdrawing from social gatherings. Victims of abuse, especially those who have diminished physical or mental capacities, will not process the experiences well. They may become exceedingly reserved or agitated in the presence of others.
  • An increase in self-destructive behavior, like biting or pulling out hair. These can be outlets for those who are suffering silently, and they should be taken seriously, especially if the patient has no history of these types of behaviors in the past.
  • Aversions to being touched by family members, especially if the patient previously had healthy physical relationships with loved ones.  

Nursing home abuse and neglect is a type of medical malpractice. In some cases, negligence may be accidental, but in other cases, abuse and negligence may be intentional and malicious. In either case, your loved one is entitled to compensation and legal protection. Check out the sites for attorneys who specialize in cases like these and contact them with your concerns. You may be able to protect your loved one from further abuse, while also protecting future patients from the same treatment.


10 September 2015

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