Deciding to put an elderly parent into a nursing home or assisted living facility is never a simple choice. Even in situations with severe illnesses, physical impairments or dementia, adult children often struggle with their inability to provide the care themselves and worry about the quality of life that their loved one will have once in a nursing home.
You may have done research into every nearby facility and picked one with an impeccable record of care. Perhaps you received recommendations from people you know and trust about the facility. No matter how carefully you select a nursing home, it only takes one bad hiring decision to put your loved one at risk. You need to inform yourself about the signs of abuse and neglect in nursing home occupants.
Abuse doesn't always leave a physical bruise
The most obvious and well-known form of abuse is physical abuse. This involves hitting, kicking or otherwise intentionally inflicting pain or physical damage on another person. Sexual abuse is a form of physical abuse that may not leave visible scars, but it can leave deep emotional ones. Bruises, broken bones or a newly developed fear of quick movements or loud voices could be warning signs of physical abuse.
Emotional or psychological abuse doesn't leave marks. Instead, it involves caregivers or others degrading, insulting threatening, isolating or humiliating someone. In some cases, gaslighting, a means of undermining someone's faith in one's own mental faculties or perceptions, also happens. Emotional abuse is harder to detect, but signs may include changes in mood, behavior or socialization.
Financial abuse is another form of abuse that elder patients sometimes experience. It could involve theft or manipulation. Someone could use your loved one's checkbook or steal his or her possessions. Alternatively, workers could slowly groom patients in their care by preying on their empathy or sympathy, telling sad stories about their financial woes to encourage gifts or perhaps an addition to a last will.
Neglect is also a serious issue
Even if there are no signs of overt abuse, you need to watch out for signs of neglect. Unbrushed hair, degraded oral health, stained clothing and bed sores are all signs that your loved one may not be getting the kind of care you expected from the nursing home. Neglect can result in infections, falls and other serious threats to the health of those in nursing homes.
When you suspect your loved one is facing abuse or experiencing neglect, ask him or her for input. In some cases, your loved one could be too frightened to speak up about what's happening, especially if staff won't allow you privacy when you visit. You may want to document everything once you have reason to feel concerned and make a point of seeing about moving your loved one to another facility if the issue isn't resolved quickly.