Retirement Planning, Elder Law, and Senior Finance

10/25/2021 | By Seniors Guide Staff

Elderly individuals face the risk of being abused in their home, a relative’s home, or a nursing care facility. Many of these cases are never noticed – or never reported. And because older adults become frailer as they age, they cannot stand up to the bullying or the verbal and physical attacks accompanying it. Their declining abilities to see and hear also provide opportunities for others to take advantage of them. By knowing the signs of elder abuse, you can help make sure this doesn’t happen to your loved one.

Always be alert

Most nursing facilities and home care workers are reputable, kind, and ethical. However, managers may not be aware of every time a worker steps over a line into abuse. In fact, Nursing Home Abuse Justice reports that 66% of nursing home staff members admitted to abusing residents in a 2020 study from the World Health Organization.

Family members and supervisors don’t always take nursing home abuse seriously, as they may pass the person’s bruises or complaints off to dementia or other age-related mental deterioration. However, even though signs of dementia and abuse can overlap at times, every sign should be thoroughly investigated.

If you have a loved one in a potentially harmful or negligent situation, be aware of the following signs indicating abuse. Then you can take steps to ensure their proper care and safety in the future.

Typical signs of elder abuse

If you notice changes in their personality and behavior, or you see a conflict between the senior and caregiver, you are right to suspect nursing home abuse or other caregiver abuse.

Physical abuse

  • Bruising, scars, or welts on their body
  • Unexplained broken bones or dislocations
  • Signs of restraint, such as rope marks on the wrists or ankles
  • Broken eyeglasses
  • The caregiver refuses to allow you to be alone with the elderly person

Emotional abuse

  • Caregiver using demeaning, threatening, or controlling behavior toward your loved one
  • Unusual behavior in the older adult, such as mumbling, thumb-sucking, or rocking

Sexual abuse

  • Bruising around the genitals or breasts
  • Vaginal or anal bleeding not related to a medical condition
  • Unexplained STDs or other genital infections
  • Bloody, stained, or torn underwear

Caregiver neglect

  • Leaving the older person unattended in public
  • The client being unsuitably dressed for the weather
  • The older person regularly being dirty or unbathed
  • Soiled bed clothing or dirty conditions
  • Bedsores from the lack of regular turning
  • Unusual weight loss or dehydration

Financial exploitation

  • Unexplained changes in the senior’s finances
  • Withdrawals from the patient’s bank accounts
  • Changes in a will, power of attorney, life insurance beneficiaries, or property titles
  • Missing cash from the senior’s room
  • Names added to the elder’s credit cards
  • ATM withdrawals from a bedridden senior’s bank account
  • Unusual goods, services, or subscriptions the elder would not have purchased

Health care fraud

  • Having duplicate bills for the same services or devices
  • A lack of adequate training for the staff
  • Not enough staff to care for the patients
  • Evidence of too little or too much medication
  • Evidence of poor care, even when the services have been paid in full

Causes and risk factors for elder abuse

Even when a caregiver is paid by and works for a nursing facility or home care agency, they can be under stress, leading to elder abuse. A shortage of staff members at nursing facilities can result in caregivers having too much responsibility, causing excessive stress. Other causes include lack of proper training, deficient work environments, or unsuitable caregivers to look after the patients.

Some elderly patients in nursing homes have multiple medical conditions and are completely dependent on others for their care. If the patient’s demands are difficult to manage and caregivers cannot always meet them, the stress level increases, and the older adult could be at greater risk.

If you observe any of the signs of elder abuse, report it immediately.

How to report abuse

Nursing home abuse is serious. And it often gets worse and sometimes turns deadly. When appropriate, begin by contacting senior management of the home health care agency, nursing care facility, or other organization. If necessary, you can stop elder abuse in its tracks by reporting it to one of the many local, state, and national agencies.

If you believe your elderly loved one is in immediate danger, dial 911 to report the abuse. You can also report nursing home abuse in the following ways (contacts vary by state):

  • Calling a nursing home abuse hotline
  • Connecting with a long-term care watchdog organization
  • Contacting your state’s adult protective services (APS)
  • Talking to doctors and other medical personnel

When you report suspected abuse, you are opening an investigation into that senior’s well-being – and potentially sparing further abuse. You could even hold nursing facilities legally responsible if they harmed your loved one.

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff