Even when families perform due diligence in choosing an Asheville nursing home for an aging parent or relative, abuse can still occur. Many seniors who are abused are victimized over and over again before the abuse is discovered – if it is ever discovered.
One of the most difficult things about discovering elder abuse is that many seniors have mental health problems or physical conditions that make it hard to detect. Abusers know this and often target patients with conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. These disorders cause confusion, memory loss, paranoia, and other symptoms. The result is that when your parent describes to you an incident of abuse or theft, you may be unsure whether or not to believe their story. Abusers anticipate this kind of reaction, and they often target patients who have these kinds of problems exactly for that reason.
So what to do if your elderly relative insists that they are being abused, or if their demeanor has changed, making you suspect something is wrong with their living situation? Many abusers are smart enough to cover their tracks well, but there are some signs that an astute person can spot. In the third article of our series on nursing home abuse, we’ll talk about how to spot elder abuse and exploitation and what to do if you suspect your loved one is experiencing abuse.
How to Identify Nursing Home Abuse
Elder abuse or neglect most often doesn’t result in visible marks on the person’s body. Abusers harm their victims in other ways. Intimidation, threats, and emotional abuse leave nursing home residents living in fear of the people around them. Sudden changes in their personality, withdrawal from friends and family members, or depression symptoms are all important indicators to watch out for. If your loved one is being emotionally abused or feels threatened in some way by the people who work or live with them, there may be other, more serious abuse or neglect occurring.
In recent years, authorities and family members of victims have uncovered more cases of financial exploitation of elderly patients in nursing homes. Attempts to coerce a senior into giving up money, checks, or property usually come along with physical intimidation or neglect. Nursing home employees may isolate a patient who does not comply, or they may withhold medication (particularly pain medication), food, or other care to force patients into handing over money or valuables. If your loved one frequently “loses” possessions or their money seems to be disappearing, someone may be financially exploiting them.
Wrongful restraints in nursing homes
Nursing home employees may wrongfully use restraints on patients to coerce them to do something, to control them, or to discipline them. Federal laws protect nursing home patients from being wrongfully restrained, and nursing home staff may only use restraints when it is to keep patients from hurting themselves or others. Restraints can be physical, as in wrist and ankle straps; restraint chairs; vests or jackets that keep the patient attached to their bed or other furniture; and others. Some abusers use medications to keep patients sedated. This is sometimes called chemical restraint.
Patients who are frequently restrained, whether through the use of physical or chemical restraints, often show both physical and emotional symptoms. Physical symptoms can include:
- Muscle atrophy
- Frozen joints
- Increased bone fragility
- Edema in the legs, feet, or ankles
Emotional symptoms of wrongful restraint can include:
- Increased confusion and disorientation
- Withdrawal or decreased participation in activities with friends and other residents
Abuse from other nursing home residents
More nursing home patients suffer abuse from fellow residents than from staff members. Financial exploitation, physical abuse, and sexual abuse and assault are common types of abuse that occur among residents of nursing homes. Although the person who commits abuse is responsible for their own actions, nursing homes are responsible for ensuring that residents are safe from harm, including from the other people who live there. If another resident has been abusing your loved one, it may be a sign that they are being neglected by nursing home staff.
How to spot nursing home abuse and neglect
Regular visits are important to keeping your elderly loved one safe and healthy. Nursing home residents who receive frequent visits from family members receive more attention from staff members than those residents who don’t. Abusers are less likely to target patients who have involved loved ones who check in on them often.
Unexpected weight loss, depression, or injuries are common symptoms of neglect. These symptoms are often serious indicators that your loved one is not receiving the care they need. It is important to keep an eye on your parent’s eating habits, their mood, and their physical and social activity so that you notice sudden changes that might be signs of neglect.
Contact an Asheville elder abuse attorney
If you’ve discovered your loved one has suffered nursing home abuse or neglect, you may have trouble determining your first step. You want to help your loved one collect the compensation they deserve for their pain and suffering, but collecting the evidence of abuse and neglect and other documentation you’ll need from the nursing home can be difficult or impossible.
The legal team at Lakota R. Denton, P.A. has the skills and experience necessary to develop your loved one’s case after they have been abused or neglected by caregivers at a nursing home. At your free initial consultation at our firm, our team will assess your case, identify issues that need to be investigated, and make an action plan to move forward. With the professionals at our law office on your side, you and your loved one will not face the nursing home’s attorneys alone. We will advocate for your elderly parent’s rights so that you and your family can focus on helping your loved one move on after abuse and neglect. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation at no cost to you.