Know the Signs: How to Spot Nursing Home Abuse

November is National Long-term Care Awareness Month. This month serves as a reminder of the important needs we all face as we grow older. The unfortunate reality is many loved ones end up being placed in long-term care without much support or care from those outside the care center.

When this happens, it exposes an ugly truth: roughly one in four nursing home residents report at least one instance of physical abuse. Some studies suggest this number may be even higher, and, in some cases, residents are afraid or embarrassed to report instances of abuse. If you’re visiting loved ones during the holidays or just stopping in for a regular visit, there are some signs of abuse you should be on the lookout for.

Physical Injuries

We want to get this one out of the way as it’s the most obvious. Accidents happen and our bodies become far more susceptible to bruising as we age. However, bruising is still the clearest sign of physical abuse.

You should ask your loved one how any physical injuries were sustained and talk to employees. If the answers are unusually different then it may be a sign that something is wrong and more attention should be given to the situation. There’s truly a chance that a fall or bump resulted in a physical bruise but never assume. In fact, some of those slips and falls could be the result of neglect if your loved one is being forced to do tasks on their own that should be done with the assistance of an employee.

Unusual Agitation or Behavior

Our loved ones will change a lot in the coming years. Their minds will change and cognitive decline may begin to impact how they behave. However, we should never dismiss all changes in behavior simply as a symptom of aging.

Do you sense some tension or nerves that normally aren’t present? Is your loved one quiet or nervous when employees at the nursing home are nearby? These could be signs that they’re going through abuse at the nursing home. Consider tactfully asking whether or not something has happened while employees aren’t near. You may not get a definitive answer if your loved one is fearful for their safety or embarrassed to talk about it, but you may be able to pick up on additional signs.

Employees Stay Close During Your Visit

A lot of communication in these situations will depend on how comfortable your loved one feels about expressing what is happening to them. This becomes much harder or even impossible if the culprit (or accomplice) of the abuse is nearby. If you feel like an employee or multiple employees are hovering around you and your loved one excessively during your visit then this could be a sign.

We obviously don’t want to paint a negative image of these employees as they may just be doing their job or staying close to make sure they can help if needed. However, you should still be cognizant of these behaviors and consider what other signs are present.

If you suspect your loved one is being abused in a nursing home, we can help. Alabamans who are living in nursing homes deserve care, protection, and dignity. Contact our offices today and we’ll stand by you and your family.

John M. Totten