Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse is a crime that no family wants to imagine could happen to their loved one. Yet statistics show that every year, thousands of vulnerable senior citizens endure abuse, mistreatment and neglect at the hands of nursing home staff members. As a family member, it may be up to you to watch for signs of nursing home abuse. If the victim doesn’t report the abuse – as is often the case for a variety of reasons – it may fall to you to alert the authorities and intervene to protect your loved one. A nursing home abuse attorney in Los Angeles can help you explore your legal options and protect the rights of your injured loved one.
What Is Nursing Home Abuse?
Nursing home abuse refers to a perpetrator intentionally harming a resident who is in the care of a nursing home. The harm inflicted against a vulnerable senior citizen could be physical or nonphysical. Seven types of elder abuse in Los Angeles are recognized by the National Center on Elder Abuse:
Abuse means to knowingly injure nursing home residents, while neglect may be careless or unintentional. However, both are serious acts of wrongdoing by nursing homes – or staff member – that can cause significant harm to victims.
Nursing home abuse can result in outwardly noticeable signs on an elderly person, including physical marks and injuries. This is especially true of physical abuse, which can involve hitting, kicking, pinching, pushing or slapping a victim. Sexual abuse can also cause physical signs, as can the effects of nursing home resident neglect. Look for any of the following possible physical signs of nursing home abuse:
- Unexplained injuries or the death of a resident
- Serious injuries, such as broken bones
- Bruising or welts
- Burn marks
- Cuts or lacerations
- Head injuries
- Loss or lack of mobility
- Restraint marks, such as rope marks
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Torn or bloody undergarments or bedding
- Unkempt appearance, dirty clothes, or self-neglect
- Broken eyeglasses or hearing aids
- Poor personal hygiene
- Unusual weight loss
- Signs of dehydration or malnourishment
- Bedsores or infections
Ask the nursing home for details about any reported injuries or trips to the emergency room. If the facility’s story does not line up with what a doctor says, this is a red flag. When you’re visiting, inspect the nursing home for physical signs of problems, as well. Problems that could point to resident abuse or neglect include dirty or hazardous conditions, inadequate clothing or bedding for residents, a lack of proper resident supervision, or elopement (wandering).
Nursing home abuse can have many emotional, mental and psychological effects on a victim. These effects can grow significant enough to result in diagnosable mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. You may be able to notice emotional signs of abuse or neglect if you speak with your loved one often, such as changes in his or her state of mind. Possible signs of emotional abuse include:
- Fear of a certain caregiver
- Anger or frustration
- Guilt or shame
- Distress or nervousness
- Reduced self-esteem
- Confusion or disorientation
- Psychological conditions
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms
- Nightmares or trouble sleeping
- Exacerbated dementia
- Overall decline in mental health
Ask your loved one about any emotional signs of something wrong. Do not ignore complaints against a nursing home or allegations against a caregiver. Do not dismiss emotional or psychological signs as your loved one simply getting older or not liking the living facilities. Ask about specific details regarding the alleged nursing home neglect and check into them as potential reports of abuse. Our nursing home abuse lawyers are in your corner to provide legal help.
Living in an environment of fear, pain and neglect can change how a senior citizen thinks, acts and behaves. An abuse victim’s behaviors may change to reflect dangerous or harmful living conditions, as well as the mental or emotional toll that neglect or abuse is having on him or her. You may notice the following behavioral signs of elder abuse when you visit your loved one:
- Isolation from others
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Aggressive or violent behaviors
- Behaviors that resemble dementia
- Thumb-sucking or rocking
- Substance abuse
- Self-harm behaviors
You should also pay attention to the behaviors of others at the nursing home. If you notice nursing home staff members yelling at each other, for example, the odds are high that they also yell at residents outside of visiting hours. Threatening, bullying, harassing, belittling or controlling behaviors by caregivers are also warning signs of nursing home abuse.
If your loved one is a victim of financial abuse or exploitation, the signs that you may notice will have more to do with his or her financial situation than physical or behavioral issues. You, a trusted family member or a financial advisor should keep a close eye on the resident’s bank accounts and financial statements. Look for unusual activity or discrepancies that may point to financial abuse, such as:
- Unexplained disappearance of belongings or money
- Unusual bank transactions
- Unpaid bills
- Missing items from the room
- Suspicious financial transactions
- Large checks made out to “cash”
- Lavish or excessive gifts given to a caregiver
- ATM withdrawals that don’t make sense
- Opening new accounts or credit cards
- Forged signatures on financial documents
- Last-minute changes to wills or trusts
- Lack of medical care despite being able to afford it
- Services that the victim didn’t sign up for or doesn’t need
Report any unusual bank activity to the victim’s financial institution right away. You may need to temporarily freeze his or her accounts and credit or debit cards during an investigation. Help your loved one understand financial abuse to avoid falling into the same trap in the future. Explain common scams that target the elderly, for example. You may also wish to assign control of a loved one’s assets and finances to a trustee to prevent further issues.
Filing a Lawsuit for Nursing Home Abuse in California
If you detect any potential signs of nursing home abuse in Los Angeles, California, contact a lawyer with experience in this practice area right away. A nursing home abuse lawyer can immediately act to investigate the situation and collect evidence while you take steps to keep your loved one safe, such as by relocating him or her to another facility or a family member’s residence.
Your lawyer can help you report the abuse to the proper authorities, including the police and your local ombudsman program. Then, your lawyer can take legal action against the nursing home for an abusive employee or its own neglect to keep residents safe. Filing a lawsuit with assistance from an attorney could result in the justice and financial compensation that your loved one deserves for suffering from nursing home abuse.