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How to identify elder abuse and neglect

Posted at 11:23 AM, Jun 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-21 11:49:12-04

Whether it be nursing care, meals, physical therapy, a religious connection, hospice care or special care units for patients, there is a lot to consider when deciding what home will be providing care for your loved one.

Unfortunately, instances of elder abuse and neglect are not uncommon. In fact, according to the Nursing Home Abuse Guide, almost 10 percent of nursing home and assisted living residents experience elder abuse or neglect. Here are some tips on how to identify abuse and neglect in homes that are under your consideration.

What is elder abuse and neglect?

Before identifying elder abuse and neglect in your nursing home of choice, you need to know what elder abuse and neglect consist of. The National Center on Elder Abuse explains that elder abuse is any of the following types of mistreatment occurring in residential facilities, such as physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation and neglect or abandonment. These forms of mistreatment are usually perpetrated by someone with a legal or contractual obligation to give some element of care or protection.

While elder abuse may take different forms, it is not uncommon for an elder to experience more than one type of mistreatment at a time. For example, an elder might be experiencing financial exploitation from a staff member but could also be suffering from neglect of food, medication, etc.



What should you look out for?

There are warning signs for people to look out for when considering potential homes for their loved ones. For example, look out for and ask about:

  • Poor personal hygiene. According to Next Avenue, nurses and staff are expected to assist with residents personal hygiene. Many residents need help with getting dressed, brushing their teeth, clipping their nails, bathing, combing their hair and more. If a nursing home is being neglectful of a resident's hygiene, it is a good sign the home is potentially understaffed, underqualified or neglectful, and it will be reflected in their appearance and smell.
  • Unsanitary living conditions. According to federal law, nursing home facilities must “establish and maintain an infection control program designed to provide a safe, sanitary and comfortable environment in which residents reside…”. Be sure to take special notice of the cleanliness and sanitary conditions of the facility. An unsanitary or unkept home may indicate signs of abuse or neglect.
  • Unexplained injuries, bruises and broken bones. Asking residents and staff about injuries can help you better understand how injuries happened and if the facility is being truthful. Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath also suggest looking out for bed sores/rashes, signs of malnutrition and signs of dehydration - like dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, etc. Signs of any of these circumstances are red flags when deciding which home is right for your loved one.
  • Specific visiting hours. Be wary of a home that is uneasy with you visiting during certain hours or in certain areas of the home. According to Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath, this could be a sign that the staff knows elder abuse is occurring and wants to keep it hidden or will try to hide it before you come.

When you entrust the care of your loved one to professionals whose job is to give quality care, it's reasonable to expect the very best care. Sadly, this is not always the case, and it is devastating to learn that they are receiving anything but the best.

Being aware of these red flags when considering a home can make all the difference for your loved one. If you believe your loved one is being treated inappropriately, get them out of the situation as soon as possible and then contact the Florida elder abuse lawyers at Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath, to help you set up your case.