Signs of Nursing Home Abuse: Recognizing Red Flags


When caring for the older adults in our lives, we trust the nursing home facilities to provide compassion and care. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, as many older people face nursing home abuse today.

Nursing home abuse occurs when caretakers harm residents. This harm can be done in different forms and can be unintentional or intentional. Regardless of the motive, the situation often leads to trauma, medical emergencies, or even death. Regrettably, the neglect isn’t always obvious, even to the victims.

Possible retaliation is one reason victims are often afraid to speak out. So, as their caretaker, it is your responsibility to ensure they’re being treated with care and respect at the nursing home facility.

In this article, we will discuss the five common signs of nursing home abuse so that you can recognize these red flags timely and protect your loved ones.

1.     Bedsores

One of the most common yet preventable injuries in nursing homes is painful bedsores, which also serve as a common red flag of underlying neglect. While bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers, may not appear serious at first and begin with minor red marks on the skin, the open wound can become extremely painful if not taken care of promptly. 

Moreover, when left unattended, these sores may lead to severe infections, unnecessary emotional anguish, pain, discomfort, and even a gradual decline in overall health.

Bedsores can be categorized from stage one to four – depending on their severity. But as the stages develop, bedsores can become infected and can be difficult to heal, especially if they reach stage four when the muscle or bone is exposed. Even though the stage 4 bedsore life expectancy is high with proper medical care, it can be extremely painful for your loved one to go through it.

So, if your loved one has failed to receive the treatment due to neglect at the nursing home, you can keep the nursing home accountable and take legal action to secure rightful compensation.

2.     Financial Exploitation

Financial abuse happens when someone illegally or improperly uses or withholds the resident’s financial resources to gain personal benefit. Some of the ordinary means to do this are through trickery, threat, unauthorized access, or by benefitting from the incapacitated mental state of the resident.

Thus, some of the common red flags you must look out for include missing cash, unexplained withdrawals from a resident’s bank account, unpaid bills despite adequate funds, etc. Also, if you observe any such abuse, try to document every possible detail and evidence as much as possible.

You can also take legal action by filing a nursing home abuse claim. Most importantly, keep track of your loved one’s financial state so you can easily notice any unusual change and address it instantly.

3.     Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse in nursing homes is defined as any sexual contact or behavior that is forced or coerced or that takes advantage of the resident’s vulnerability or lack of consent.

Also, abusers target the elderly, who they believe are vulnerable and easy targets, especially senior citizens who are easily confused and isolated from family. Some of the most common types of elder sexual abuse include sexual photography, unwanted touching, sexual assault and battery, and forced nudity.

Thus, if you notice any psychological or visible signs of this abuse, such as bruises on thighs and breasts; unexplained infections and STDs; torn, covered in blood or stained clothing; depression; difficulty in sitting or walking; excessive fear around caregivers or agitation; make sure to pay close attention to this evidence and find the primary cause. Also, don’t hesitate to report the issue to the nursing home administrator or call 911 or local police to report the abuse.

4.     Dehydration or Malnourishment

This is another red flag that indicates the failure of nursing home staff to take care of the resident’s basic needs. This negligence results in the constant deterioration of the overall health of the resident over a short period of time. Also, when an older adult remains malnourished and dehydrated in a nursing home, it weakens their immune system. This, in turn, leads to cognitive problems and infections. Thus, they can become life-threatening if you fail to observe the signs of malnourishment or dehydration or leave them untreated for a long time.

Some of the common signs of both these conditions include dry mouth, swollen tongue, cracked or dry lips, reduced urination, and even higher degrees of immobility. Similarly, some severe health complications may include hypotension, renal failure, abnormal skin tone, muscular atrophy, or electrolyte imbalance.

So, as soon as you find any of the signs, do not hesitate and immediately bring the issue to the attention of relevant authorities or the long-term care facility.

5.     Poor Hygiene or Sanitation

Generally, a resident’s sanitation or poor hygiene occurs due to staff or facility neglect to properly care for the older person or fulfill their contractual obligation. For instance, it comes under negligence when older persons fail to get the required assistance to bathe or toilet. Therefore, if you observe that your loved ones are facing such issues as living with soiled bed clothing, dirty clothes, being unsuitably dressed for the weather, bugs, or dirty conditions, take timely action and report the issue to authorities.

Remember, if the health of a nursing home resident declines or is jeopardized due to staff’s negligence in maintaining hygiene or improper sanitation, the facility can be legally held liable.

The Bottom Line

Every year, nursing home abuse is reported by thousands of residents. Also, considering the extent of underreporting, the true extent of the issue is likely much greater than what we know. However, one way to protect your loved ones from abuse is to recognize the obvious and less obvious red flags.

Never hesitate to speak up if your loved one is the victim of nursing abuse or neglect. Also, document everything and maintain a detailed record of signs and incidents you’ve observed. You can also report to authorities to investigate the matter and seek legal help from a professional experienced in nursing home neglect and abuse cases.

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