Nursing homes take responsibility for caring for millions of elderly Americans every year, and those elderly individuals have loved ones who depend on the nursing homes to provide safe, clean, and nurturing environments for older adults. Unfortunately, nursing home abuse is a common trend, with many Americans over the age of 65 reporting at least one incident of abuse each year.
If you have an elderly loved one in a nursing home, it is essential to stay vigilant for the telltale signs of abuse. Some forms of nursing home abuse leave obvious signs while others can be more difficult to detect. Stay alert for the common signs of nursing home abuse so you can take immediate action in case your loved one is in a dangerous situation.
One of the most common signs of abuse is a sudden personality shift. If your elderly loved one used to be extremely talkative, outgoing, and generally pleasant but suddenly seems distracted or withdrawn, he or she may be internally coping with recent abuse and feel afraid or ashamed to speak up about it. While some elderly individuals have mental and physical health conditions that can entail personality changes and other psychological effects, you should pay close attention to any sudden or suspicious changes in your loved one’s behaviors during visits.
You should also see if your loved one’s behavior shifts around certain staff members. During a visit, if a nurse or other nursing home employee comes near your loved one and you see a noticeable change in his or her demeanor, be sure to investigate.
Older adults are more vulnerable to physical injuries and generally take longer to heal than younger people. If your loved one has a fall or any other injury, the nursing home should keep a detailed incident report and inform his or her primary point of contact or next of kin immediately. If you visit your loved one to discover he or she suffered an injury and the nursing home failed to report it as required, or the nursing home does not have an adequate incident report process, take this very seriously and consider it a sign of potential abuse.
Some elderly individuals may suffer from cognitive deficiencies or degenerative neurological conditions like dementia that may cause them to be prone to wandering. If a dementia patient wanders and sustains injuries on a frequent basis, take this as a sign the nursing home is failing to properly supervise your loved one.
Financial abuse and identity theft are unfortunately common among nursing home residents as those individuals willing to commit such crimes generally consider elderly nursing home patients easy targets for exploitation. If you have access to your elderly loved one’s finances, pay close attention to any sudden changes, odd purchases, or personal checks written from the account. If you suspect identity theft, contact the appropriate financial institutions, and report your concerns to have them freeze the accounts and prevent future theft.
Some medical complications can entail severe downturns very suddenly, but your loved one’s primary care provider should be able to explain medically legitimate issues with your loved one’s condition. However, abuse can cause a host of physical and mental issues and may even exacerbate an existing medical condition. Sexual abuse could lead to sudden infection with a sexually transmitted disease. Investigate any changes in your loved one’s medical status as soon as possible and take any signs of abuse very seriously.
If you confirm your loved one has suffered abuse at the hands of nursing home staff or due to the neglectful environment of a nursing home, remove him or her from the dangerous situation as soon as possible and report the abuse to the appropriate authorities. In Wisconsin, incidents involving potential nursing home abuse can be reported to the Division of Quality Assurance (DQA). The DQA is responsible for assuring the health, safety, and welfare or persons using health and community care provider services in Wisconsin. If anyone believes that a nursing home or residential care provider has engaged in abuse, that person has the right to file a complaint with DQA. A complaint can be filed in one of two ways. First, a complaint can be filed online by completing a Complaint Intake Survey form. Secondly, you can call the DQA at (800) 642-6552.
In addition to filing a complaint, you should consult with a nursing home neglect attorney who is experienced in handling nursing home abuse cases. At Cannon & Dunphy, S.C., we have the specialized knowledge and experience to investigate a potential nursing home abuse case and hold the nursing home accountable for your loved one’s abuse.
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