For many, elder abuse seems like a distant concept. “It happens, but it happens somewhere else,” children of elder parents tell themselves. In reality, it can happen anywhere—in a luxury continuing care center or in a budget-friendly nursing home. Adult children, family members, and friends must advocate for their loved ones to prevent, identify, and stop negligently and intentionally harmful behaviors. Current statistics for elder abuse are shocking. Approximately one fifth of California nursing homes fail to meet state-mandated staffing level requirements. Also, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, twice as many of the 115,000+ patients are placed in unnecessary physical restraints as are nationally. An experienced nursing home abuse lawyer can help you seek justice for the mistreatment of these victims.
To protect your loved ones, you must understand the nature of elder abuse. This abuse may include acts of violence, neglect, sexual misconduct, fraud, and theft. Abuse can ruin a senior citizen’s golden years and rob families of their relationships and rightful inheritances. The warning signs are often subtle and difficult to interpret, particularly if your loved one is unwilling to discuss the situation openly.
7 Warning Signs of Elder Abuse
7 of the most common warning signs for elder abuse are listed below:
- Unexpected changes in personality, behavior, or physical health. Noticeable changes may not indicate the type of abuse your loved one endures, but it will help you recognize the presence of some form of abuse. A medical condition may explain some changes, but not all. If you can’t attribute variations in your loved one’s personality to the natural aging process or a medical condition, investigate any caretakers who may take advantage of their positions.
- Visible tension between an elderly individual and a caretaker. Some personality differences may explain tension within a caregiving relationship, but arguments and high levels of tension may signal something more serious. Speak with the caretaker yourself and look for any signs of disdain, resentment, neglect or carelessness. If anything feels off in the relationship, take action. Changing professional care the moment you recognize serious tension could prevent abuse from taking place.
- Bedsores should never develop. These ulcers take place when a patient doesn’t move for extended periods. Pressure builds up around bony areas and ultimately creates skin and tissue damage. Bedsores are painful and difficult to heal. If you notice a bedsore on a patient in someone’s care, something is wrong.
- Physical injuries. Serious bruising, broken bones, and burns without logical explanations could indicate physical abuse. If you hear an inadequate excuse or an illogical explanation for an injury, take a second look. Combined with odd caretaking behaviors such as monitoring family visits or refusing to leave an elderly individual alone, these signs serve as red flags for abuse.
- Unsanitary and unhealthy conditions. Smells, visible uncleanliness, messy living spaces, and unanticipated weight loss could indicate neglect. You may discover both unintentional and intentional acts of neglect. Unintentional neglect often occurs when caretakers lack adequate training or become overextended.
- Unusual financial situations. Financial exploitation is often difficult to detect, because some loved ones may not have access to an elder’s financial information. Look for unpaid bills, frequent and unexplained withdrawals, strange purchases, and caretaker familiarity with financial activities.
- Evidence of healthcare fraud. Paper trails often highlight signs of healthcare fraud. Look for inconsistencies in billing, medication, and care. If you notice unnecessary treatments or a service that your elder didn’t receive, ask.
The phrase “trust, but verify” applies in elder caretaking situations like choosing a nursing home. Always double-check a caretaker’s credentials and listen to your gut instincts. If you receive inadequate explanations from your loved one or a caretaker, notice physical signs of abuse, or recognize financial inconsistencies, intervene.
If you fear your loved one is in immediate and serious danger, call 911. If you have unaddressed concerns about abuse, contact an adult protective services agency as well as an experienced elder abuse attorney as soon as possible.
This article has been provided courtesy of Grey Law. They are professional nursing home abuse lawyers in Los Angeles that can help you hold abusive and neglectful caretakers accountable.