Protecting the Elderly: 4 Types of Nursing Home Abuse and How to Spot It

The statistics on nursing home abuse in the US are alarming. According to nationalhomeabuseguide.org, in excess of 40 percent of nursing home residents have reported abuse. Research from 2010 shows that up to half of all nursing home workers admitted to abusing or neglecting patients. It must be noted that not every case gets reported.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), elder abuse is “any abuse and neglect of persons age 60 and older by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust.” Experts, such as this attorney, will tell you to seek legal help if you believe a loved one has been a victim of nursing home abuse.

This article will describe four types of elder abuse: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional/psychological abuse and neglect. By the end, you’ll know the signs of each type and what you should do if you suspect any kind of abuse.

Physical abuse

This is when elderly patients suffer physical injury, pain or impairment because of bad treatment or neglect. This type of abuse is common and it can lead to life-threatening injuries. Nursing home patients may even die. The abuser is believed to be most often a nursing home employee. However, sometimes it’s a visitor or even another resident. Physical abuse can be active such as hitting or kicking but it can also include injuries caused by neglect and improper use of restraints. Signs include unexplained injuries, bruises, malnutrition, and dehydration.

Sexual abuse

This is unwanted physical and sexual contact with an elderly person. It includes sexual contact with a patient who is disoriented or otherwise unable to give consent. Women are more likely to become victims of elder sexual abuse. This type of abuse includes sexual assault and battery, rape, forced nudity and sexual photography. Signs include STDs and infections, bruises in the genital area or breasts, vaginal bleeding, anxiety, and fear around the caregiver.

Emotional abuse

This is the most difficult type of abuse to measure or prove. It doesn’t leave physical evidence and may not always be witnessed. Emotional abuse is when someone acts in a way that causes an elderly person emotional pain and suffering. It can be both verbal and non-verbal and includes yelling, making threats, withdrawing affection and taking away personal items. Patients treated in this way may become fearful or withdrawn or experience changes in behavior.

Neglect

This is negligence on the part of the nursing home to give proper care. Examples include isolation, malnutrition, falls and improper medication management. Family members who visit the nursing home will likely see the signs. They include an unclean or unsafe environment, sudden weight loss and bruising. You may also see a staff member who appears discontent or disinterested.

What to do when you suspect abuse

One of the reasons abuse often goes unreported is that loved ones don’t know what to do when they suspect something is wrong. One option is to visit the National Center on Elder Abuse site for information on who should be contacted in your state. You can talk to your loved one’s doctor or find out if there’s a social worker assigned to your area. Don’t be afraid to call 911 if the situation is urgent and you believe the elderly person’s life is in danger. Once you have made a report, contact a personal injury attorney about you should proceed.

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