While many people are not entirely comfortable with the idea of their loved ones living in a long-term care facility, they understand that nursing homes often offer a level of specialized attention and care that they cannot provide at home. After all, nursing home staff and medical professionals are trained to manage everything from daily medication administration to emergency situations. That is why it can be especially disheartening and disturbing to learn that nursing home facilities can also be sites of elder abuse and neglect. Recognizing the various kinds and symptoms of abuse can go a long way to help protect the rights and safety of nursing home patients.
Helpguide.org discusses elder abuse and neglect, and explains that around 500,000 cases are reported to authorities every year across the country, and many occur in nursing home facility settings. The maltreatment of elderly people is typically caused by those directly responsible for their safety and well-being, and a huge number of cases are never reported to authorities. Some forms of elder abuse are relatively easy to identify, but many others present more subtle and complex symptoms.
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, there are several major types of elder abuse, and all are linked to multiple signs and symptoms. Physical abuse may be the type that most people think of when they consider nursing home abuse, as it often results in physical injury and/or pain. Bruises, broken bones, damaged property and changes in behavior are some of the signs that physical abuse may be occurring.
Sexual abuse often presents physical signs of maltreatment as well, but can include injuries to the victim’s private areas. Damaged clothing and/or the development of an unexplained genital infection or venereal disease can also be signs of sexual abuse. Elder neglect, abandonment and psychological abuse are not generally characterized as involving direct physical maltreatment, but their effects can have emotional and physical consequences for victims. For instance, emotional abuse can cause unusual behavior and/or agitation, while neglect can result in physical symptoms like malnutrition and poor personal hygiene. It is also important to note that financial exploitation is another serious form of elder abuse that can be increasingly difficult to detect because it does not typically involve physical maltreatment.