Tips for recognizing signs of nursing home abuse and neglect

Family members with loved ones in nursing homes should be alert to signs of abuse, such as physical injury, unusual behavior and adverse changes in health.

Nursing home abuse and neglect have become alarmingly common problems in the U.S. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, one study found that over 50 percent of nursing home staff had mistreated patients within the prior year. Another study found that 44 percent of nursing home residents reported abuse, and 95 percent had witnessed the neglect of fellow residents.

These statistics underscore why it is critical for families with loved ones in Memphis nursing homes to understand the signs of abuse and neglect. Sadly, many older adults may not report nursing home abuse due to fear, physical inability or other factors. Consequently, family members should take the following steps to ensure that mistreatment does not go undetected.

Monitor physical health

Nursing home residents sometimes suffer accidental injuries or unpreventable health problems; however, unexplained injuries or health conditions may indicate abuse. Family members should recognize the possibility that serious injuries, such as fractures or sprains, could stem from physical abuse. More minor physical injuries, such as bruises, abrasions or signs of restraint, may also reveal abuse. The incorrect use of medication can also represent a form of physical abuse.

Recognize inadequate care

Family members should also stay alert to physical signs of neglect. According to the Administration on Aging, these signs include malnutrition, dehydration, weight loss and poor hygiene. Persistent health issues, such as bedsores or infections, may also reveal negligent nursing home care. The safety and cleanliness of an elderly family member's immediate surroundings can also show whether the family member is receiving adequate attention and care.

Accidents or near misses can be signs that a nursing home is not providing enough supervision or care. For instance, falls may occur when elderly adults are not assisted or supervised as they move about the nursing home. Adults who are not adequately supervised may also wander around their nursing homes or even leave the facility, potentially exposing themselves to various physical hazards.

Note emotional changes

Significant changes in an elderly family member's behavior may also reveal physical or psychological abuse. According to the NCEA, the following behaviors can point to abuse or neglect:

  • Withdrawal from normal activities
  • Refusal to communicate or respond to others
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Depression

Family members should also take the development of unusual behaviors, such as biting, as possible signs of a problem. These behaviors may form in response to distress or other emotions that arise from abuse.

Seek help

In addition to watching for these signs, family members should be ready to take immediate action if they believe abuse is occurring. Family members who think a loved one has suffered harm as a result of inadequate care or abuse should also consider seeking legal advice. An attorney may be able to provide assistance in investigating the incident, ensuring the family member is protected and seeking any compensation that might be available.