While some acts of nursing home abuse are blatantly obvious (such as a loved one kept in an over medicated state for no reason), others are more subtle and may be overlooked by family or friends. If your loved one displays the following characteristics while residing in a nursing home facility, chances are he/she has been the victim of abuse.
- Bedsores or Open Wounds– Nursing homes often insist that bedsores are natural and to be expected among frail or immobile residents. Sadly, many families believe this lie and watch helplessly as their loved one experiences pain and sometimes fatal complications as a result of these sores. The truth is that 99% of bedsore cases are the result of abuse and negligence. Nursing homes have strict guidelines that require them to move patients every 2-3 hours and keep their sheets/ garments dry to prevent moisture from irritating the skin. If your loved one has a bedsore, it is likely that this regiment was not followed by the staff. Upon detection of a bedsore, family members should insist that he/she is moved to a medical facility for treatment and contact an attorney to discuss your rights against the nursing home.
- Unexplained bruises, cuts, burns or fractures– While it is true that accidents may happen among weak and frail nursing home residents, families should be suspicious of any injury sustained at the facility. Sometimes residents are dropped or abused while in a medicated state and therefore do not remember what happened to them. Family members should not be afraid to ask questions about the situation. If the nurse or aid seems to hesitate or offer a vague explanation, chances are your loved one is being mistreated or neglected by the staff.
- Torn, Bloody or Stained Garments– If you notice torn, bloody or stained clothes, there is a good chance that your loved one has been the victim of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is prevalent in nursing homes, especially among residents who are heavily medicated or have short-term memory problems. Unexplained venereal disease or genital infections are other signs of sexual abuse. Again, if you are not given a satisfactory reason for torn or stained garments or what seems to be a genital infection, remove your loved one from the facility immediately and report your suspicions to local authorities.
- Refusal or Delays to Visit the Resident– Family members should be immediately suspicious if the nursing home staff stalls before allowing a visit or openly denies a spontaneous visit in the absence of a medical reason. Family members should also be suspicious of any nursing home that will not allow the resident to have a private visit with a family member. This is a way to intimidate or prevent the resident from reporting the staff for any abuse or neglect that they have experienced.
- Abrupt changes in the resident’s financial documents or will– While a resident has the right to amend personal documents, family members should be suspicious if these changes happen abruptly or if the resident does not remember making such changes. The resident may have been coerced into changing the documents or giving out account numbers while under the influence of medication or after threats of physical harm.
If your loved one has displayed any of the warning signs listed above, you must act immediately to ensure the situation does not get worse. In the case of neglect, call every three hours to make sure the resident has been moved, groomed, bathed, etc. If you suspect sexual or physical abuse, consider moving the resident to a different facility. On the other hand, if you know for a fact that such abuse is taking place, move the resident immediately and contact an attorney to file suit against the abusive staff member and nursing home facility.
Most importantly, get involved in your loved one’s treatment and daily care. Family members make the best advocates for nursing home residents. When family members visit often and ask questions, staff members will be hesitant to engage in abusive activities or provide substandard care. Residents have rights, and involved family members will ensure that those rights are not violated by predators or careless staff.
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