When our loved ones enter a nursing home, we trust their caregivers will help make their lives comfortable and happy in their later years. However, the National Institute of Health estimates that 10 percent of older people experience some form of abuse.
Because the abuse of the elderly in nursing homes comes in many forms, the warning signs will vary depending on the type of abuse.
Signs of physical abuse
The effects of aging can leave older people vulnerable to physical abuse and unable to defend themselves. Some of the warning signs of this include:
- Unexplained injuries, including bruises, welts or other wounds
- Broken eyeglasses
- Signs of restraint
These signs could show that an elderly person is being physically abused by their caregiver, whether through violent acts or physical restraint.
Signs of sexual abuse
In addition to physical abuse, the elderly are often left vulnerable to sexual assault. Warning signs that they have been victims of sexual abuse include:
- Unexplained bleeding or bruising in the genital area
- Damaged or stained undergarments
- Bruising in other areas like the breasts
- Sexually transmitted diseases
Sexual abuse can not only damage your loved one’s health, but also leave deep emotional damage.
Signs of emotional abuse
Emotional abuse does not usually leave physical evidence, but there are still warning signs to look for:
- Controlling or threatening behavior made by nursing home staff, including yelling
- Signs of emotional distress, anxiety or confusion
- Withdrawal from family members and friends
This abuse can leave your loved one with challenging emotional scars in the later years of their life.
Signs of financial abuse
Because they are physically vulnerable, the elderly can be at risk for exploitation. Warning signs of financial abuse include:
- Unexplained withdrawals or written checks
- Sudden changes to estate planning documents
- The disappearance of money or objects from the household
This financial exploitation can leave seniors without the financial stability they need later in life, and manipulation can leave their loved ones without the support they need in the future.
Signs of neglect
While not as outright hostile as other forms of abuse, neglect in a nursing home setting can put your loved ones at significant risk. Symptoms of neglect can include:
- Unexplained weight loss or dehydration
- Injuries from being poorly monitored or bed sores from being left in one position for too long
- Unsanitary or unsafe living conditions
- Dirty or unsuitable clothing
All of these are signs that the people who have been trusted to care for an elderly person are neglecting that duty.
If you suspect abuse is occurring
If you suspect that your loved one is being abused, do not confront the abuser directly. Get your loved one to a place where they feel safe and comfortable, then contact the authorities and an attorney to ensure that the case is properly investigated and that abusers are held responsible for their actions.