We have all read the news reports or have heard stories about neglect and abuse that can happen in a nursing home. While it is not the norm, it is a real fear that family members struggle with concerning their elderly loved ones. What should you do if you suspect that your loved one is not receiving the proper care that they deserve?
What signs should you look for?
There are many signs that you should look for when visiting your loved one to ensure that they are being looked after properly. If they show any one of these signs, action should be taken immediately:
- Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, or abrasions should not be present. There may be some bruising if your loved one has received shots, an IV, or had a fall, but unexplainable markings are definitely a red flag.
- Personality changes such as unexplained withdrawal from activities, a lack of alertness, and depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
- Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
- Regularly check your loved one’s bank statements and accounts for abnormal charges and activity to avoid financial fraud. New tools and services such as True Link provide a great service to help protect seniors against this very fraud.
- Bedsores, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect.
Who do I call?
- If you need immediate help for a life threatening problem, call 9-1-1.
- The government also provides services through the Administration on Aging’s National Center for Elder Abuse. You can look up their website (www.ncea.aoa.gov) or you can call the Eldercare Locator on weekdays for state specific information at 1-800-677-1116.
- You many also want to contact your local ombudsman. Long-Term Care Ombudsmen are advocates for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes, assisted living facilities, and similar adult care facilities. They work to resolve problems that patients face that will improve residents’ care and quality of life. Since each state has its own directory of ombudsman, simply type in your state and “ombudsman” into the search engine and you will find the information on how to contact your local representative. You can also check out The National Long-term Care Ombudsman Resource Center.
How can I prevent elder abuse?
- Frequently check in with your loved one. Phone calls and visits will alert you to anything amiss.
- Look up a nursing home’s history before you move your loved one in. NursingHomeRating.org provides a list of national nursing homes along with statistics, ratings, resident surveys, treatment deficiencies, and inspection and abuse reports for each one.
- Make sure your loved one’s financial and legal records are in order to prevent fraud.
The Administration on Aging reports that, “2.1 million older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation. And that’s only part of the picture: Experts believe that for every case of elder abuse or neglect reported, as many as five cases go unreported.” When you know what to look for and what to do, you can prevent your loved one from becoming a victim of elder abuse.