One of the dangers of nursing home abuse is how subtlety it can appear. Like fog on little cat feet, it can begin so slightly you may not even notice. Or, you may dismiss it as "nothing".
It may not show itself as a sudden, obvious bruise, or broken bone (though it could). It might be that your father or mother seems less alert than is typical. It could be unusual weight loss or a sore that does not seem to go away.
The key is to be aware. Don't let someone suffer in silence. Many of today's elderly are of a generation where one had a stoic attitude and did not complain. They may think complaining is wrong; or their mental state may have deteriorated to the point where they are not fully aware of neglect.
If something seems amiss or out of place, record it. Abuse frequently does not manifest itself in a single dramatic event. It may reveal itself in a drawn out pattern of repeated behavior.
The suffering is often in silence. If you notice changes in personality or behavior you should ask questions.
Physical and Mental Indicators of Abuse
· Unusual or unexplained injuries (cuts, bruises, burns)
· Appearing disheveled or poorly cared for
· Pressure or bed sores
· Unnecessary Confinement
· Dehydration or malnutrition without a medical cause
· Confusion or Helplessness
· Strange and inconsistent explanations for injuries
· Hesitation to talk openly
Why it Happens
Nursing home work is difficult. Many jobs are barely above minimum-wage rates for pay and workers work long hours. Due to their advanced age or infirmity, caring for residents may be problematic.
Nursing home management may be cutting corners to save a buck. This leads to understaffing, too few attendants and poor morale.
Poor training, improper job placement and lax supervision are not uncommon. Having a bad day is not acceptable. Drugging a resident to make them compliant is anathema.
Neglect and abuse happens even in the most expensive facility. Simply because it is clean and seemingly well managed is no guarantee. This is why it is so important to always be aware of any changes in surroundings of a resident.
Do not allow nice drapes and wall coverings to cause you to dismiss changes in behavior, attitude or physical ability. Ask questions.
How You Can Help
An important way to stop abuse of the elderly in nursing homes is knowing what to look for. Awareness of the signs of abuse and willingness to investigate matters when something does not seem quite right are a good first step to ending nursing home abuse and neglect.
Contact an attorney experienced in advocating against nursing home abuse. If you suspect abuse or negligence, don't delay. Know your rights.