When a family can no longer meet the needs of one of its members, they often entrust their loved one to a long-term care facility. Unfortunately, residents can become the victims of nursing home abuse. The signs of mistreatment are sometimes subtle, but they are too important to ignore.
Altered Personality or Mood
Especially if the facility is new to the patient, some temporary depression or malaise are a normal part of adjusting. However, if the patient fails to positively acclimate even after a reasonable duration, it may be more about the facility than simply the change of circumstances. Furthermore, if the patient suddenly becomes uncharacteristically angry, fearful, anxious or withdrawn, it may be a sign of emotional cruelty. Observing how staff members interact with other patients, and especially noting how the patient reacts to particular caregivers, can provide clues about what may be happening when no one is watching.
Deteriorated Physical Health
Patients are often in long-term care facilities because of significant cognitive or physical impairment, but signs of malnutrition or dehydration that are not part of a preexisting condition are red flags of inadequate or abusive care. A patient who has lost weight, appears gaunt, or suffers from decreased urination may not be getting adequate food and water. Sometimes, the signs are as subtle as dry, cracked lips and weakness, so visiting often and unannounced can indicate the day-to-day sustenance situation.
Soiled clothing and bedding or unkempt personal appearance are signs that staff may be neglecting the patient’s bathing and grooming needs. Even if simply due to staffing shortages, it is a problem staff must promptly address. Without regular bathing, vulnerable residents are at a greater risk for infection and other health problems. More significantly, the lack of care for outward physical needs can indicate other emotional or mental health needs that go unmet.
Unexplained Financial Transactions
It may be as minor as missing personal property, or could be as brazen as significant financial transactions; either way, missing items and money should set off warning bells for family members that something isn’t right. Many times, residents are unaware that it’s happening since they may not have regular access to financial information making it crucial for the patient’s loved ones to take note of anything out of the ordinary that could indicate theft.
Unexplained Bruising or Injuries
While there are medical conditions that can cause bruising or broken bones, unexplained physical injuries require thorough investigation. Questioning the patient and staff can provide answers, but if something just doesn’t add up between the explanation and the positioning or severity of the injury, it may indicate intentional harm or rough handling.
It is important not to miss the signs as profound mistreatment can have a long-lasting impact on the patient, leading to setbacks in treatment and even regression. Families who discover one or more of the signs should speak to the facility’s management or, if necessary, alert police or other authorities. Sometimes, families may need to take legal action against the facility. Whatever the outcome, it is important that patients are treated with the care and dignity they deserve.