Nursing Abuse - How to Identify the Signs of Abuse and Take Action

We currently live in an aging population. In the US, around 15% of the population is over the age of 65. While in the UK, approximately 15.21% of the population is over the age of 70. Worldwide statistics by the UN estimates that the world's elderly population will reach around 8.5% by 2030 and 17.9% by 2050. This is because we live in a world where healthcare, nutrition, sanitation, and other factors that were life-threatening issues in the past are no longer major issues. 

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With our population continuing to grow, facilities such as assisted living, senior communities, nursing homes, and domiciliary care agencies are more important than ever. Nursing homes notably have improved vastly since their conception, with well-trained nurses promoting a better quality of care for their residents and providing better amenities and programs. However, while elderly citizens have everything they need to enjoy their lives, elder abuse is also prevalent in our society.  

What is Nursing Home Abuse?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 15.7% of elders have experienced some form of elder abuse, whether at the hands of nursing home staff or a family member. While there are different forms of abuse, the most prevalent are emotional, neglect, and financial abuse. This can happen for many reasons, such as lack of training, taking advantage of financial incentives, institutional abuse, and many others. 

Types of Nursing Home Abuse

Different types of abuse can occur in a nursing home. Some of them are easy to spot, but others might be more difficult to notice or aren't reported. The most common types of abuse in these facilities are neglect, emotional, and physical. Neglect includes everything from withholding medications and food, refusal to provide medical care, etc. Emotional abuse includes harassment and verbal threats. The last type, physical, can consist of denial of basic needs such as food, water, shelter, or comfort items like blankets and toiletries. Financial abuse is another form of abuse that occurs. This could be someone taking advantage of an elderly resident, whether theft, fraud, and exploitation for financial gain. Unfortunately, financial abuse is also not reported often. 

How to Identify the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse?

It is not always easy to identify abuse in a nursing home. There can be many signs, which collectively could signal that something is wrong, the most recognizable are as follows: 

Painful Bruises or Broken Bones

 It can be challenging to determine the cause of bruises and broken bones on an elderly resident, meaning it's easy for abusers to continue their abuse. It's also difficult to prove abuse inflicted an injury due to the body's fragility as it ages. In addition to this, there may be no witnesses or evidence left at the scene of the crime. For this reason, many facilities request that all bruises and broken bones are documented. 

Strange Changes in Behavior

A lot of elder abuse is not always as obvious as bruises or broken bones. Elderly adults may experience changes in behavior that are difficult to pinpoint. They may seem depressed, withdrawn, forgetful, or confused more often than usual. In some cases, these changes are due to a physical ailment. But they might also be signs of abuse by a staff or family member.

Unexplained Weight Loss or Weight Gain

Weight loss and weight gain are both physical indicators of elder abuse. They are not always a direct result of the abuse, but often they are. For example, weight loss is usually caused by starvation which is sometimes a deliberate action by the abuser to keep the victim weak and dependent on them. Lack of mobility and overeating usually causes weight gain. These are often associated with sexual, emotional abuse and neglect. 

Unkempt Clothing, Poor Hygiene, or Personal Appearance.

A clear sign of neglect is improper or poor hygiene or poor personal appearance. The abuser could neglect to provide basic hygiene needs for the elder, like food, water, or cleanliness. They may even neglect to offer personal care needs like toothbrushing and oral hygiene.

Fearfulness Around Staff Members.

If the abuser is a staff member, the victim might show fear of most nursing staff. If they react violently towards a member of staff or a particular person, it might be a sign of abuse.

What Can You Do If You Suspect Elderly Abuse?

Ensure that you're always on the lookout for signs of elder abuse, and if you find abuse or suspect it, your quick actions can protect victims. If you're a staff member, recording and reporting what you've discovered is the best option. If you're a family member, getting in touch with dedicated injury lawyers specializing in nursing home and elder abuse is your best bet to take action against abusers.  


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