Knowing the signs of nursing home abuse may prevent serious harm

Family members who familiarize themselves with the signs of abuse and neglect may be able to protect their elderly loved one from harm.

The American Psychological Association reports that approximately 4 million Americans are victims of elderly abuse and neglect every year. However, the APA states that for every reported case of abuse, at least 23 more go unreported. Abuse and neglect can not only jeopardize the quality of life for the elderly, but may also increase their risk of dying earlier in comparison to those who are not abused. Family members with a loved one in a nursing home may be able to prevent the negative consequences of abuse and neglect by familiarizing themselves with the signs of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

Physical abuse

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, physical abuse is defined as any physical force that may result in physical pain, bodily injury or impairment. Elderly nursing home residents may be victims of physical abuse if their perpetrator strikes, hits, beats, shoves, shakes or slaps them. Some of the signs and symptoms of physical abuse include the following:

  • Open wounds, cuts and untreated wounds in various stages of healing.
  • Internal bleeding, sprains and dislocations.
  • Welts, black eyes and bruises located throughout the body.
  • Broken bones and skull fractures.

Additionally, if an elderly person is physically abused, they may exhibit sudden changes in behavior and their caregiver may prohibit family members from visiting with them alone.

Sexual abuse

Any non-consensual sexual contact with an elderly person is considered sexual abuse. This type of abuse includes unwanted touching and all types of battery and sexual assault, like sodomy, rape and forced nudity. Unexplained vaginal bleeding, unexplained genital infections, bruises surrounding the elder's genital area and torn or stained underclothing are all signs of sexual abuse family members should watch out for.

Emotional abuse

Psychological or emotional abuse occurs when an elderly person is harmed through the infliction of pain, anguish or distress through both physical and verbal acts. When an elderly person is the victim of emotional abuse, they may be subjected to intimidation, insults, threats, humiliation and harassment on a regular basis. A person who is emotionally abused may become upset, agitated, withdrawn and unresponsive. They may also resort to unusual behavior, such as constantly sucking, rocking or biting.

Family members who understand the signs of elder abuse and neglect may be able to prevent their loved one from incurring serious physical, sexual or emotional harm. However, even in its earliest stages, nursing home abuse can still impose significant consequences. Family members who have an elderly relative residing in a nursing home should contact an attorney if they suspect that their loved one has been the recipient of any form of abuse.

Keywords: elder, nursing home, abuse, injury