elder abuse nursing homes

Signs and Symptoms of Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes

Nursing Home Neglect Lawyer

As we age, many of us are forced to rely more and more on others to assist us in everyday tasks. Unfortunately, this need for help brings along a greater chance of mistreatment and of being taken advantage of. Any time a person over the age of 60 is harmed or neglected, whether physically, verbally, financially, sexually, or emotionally, elder abuse has occurred. Elder abuse can be perpetrated by caregivers, family members, friends, neighbors, or total strangers. The abuse against seniors can occur in their own home, the home of a relative or friend, or in a nursing home or assisted living facility.

Elder abuse is significantly underreported; seniors may be embarrassed or afraid to tell others about the abuse. The Bright Focus Foundation estimates that the abuse of the elderly adds more than $5 billion a year to the health care expenditures of our nation. The Foundation further notes that victims of elder abuse are three times as likely to die, four times as likely to need a nursing home, and twice as likely to be hospitalized. The National Council on Aging estimates one in ten Americans aged sixty and over have experienced some type of elder abuse, although the NCOA believes only about one in 14 cases of elder abuse are ever reported to authorities.

Elder abuse can have devastating effects on the victim of the abuse as well as those who love the elderly person. Finding out your elderly loved one has suffered abuse can be a traumatic experience, leaving you wondering who you should turn to. The Finn Law Firm can help you through this difficult time. We have helped many others who found themselves in a similar situation; we have compassion for what you are going through yet will aggressively pursue justice on your behalf and on behalf of the elderly victim. The information below will help you accurately identify the signs and symptoms of nursing home abuse; the more evidence you have, the better we can help.

More About Nursing Home Neglect

Signs of Nursing Home Neglect

Neglect of an elderly person in a nursing home may be less obvious in some cases than outright abuse, although there are certain signs which should never be ignored. Take special note whenever you see any of the following when you are visiting your loved one at a nursing home:

  • Apparent lack of basic hygiene; the senior is not dressed (or dressed in dirty clothing), appears not to have bathed in a while, or has an overall unkempt look.
  • The senior appears to be losing weight, possibly from inadequate nutrition or is not hungry anymore.
  • The senior has bedsores from being left for long periods of time in a bed or wheelchair.
  • It appears the bedding has not been changed in some time.
  • The facility seem inadequate or is cluttered, dirty, or in disrepair.
  • The senior is suffering from dehydration.
  • It appears the senior has not been taking necessary medications.
  • The senior appears to be missing necessary items, such as eyeglasses, hearing aids, walkers, or dentures.

Although some of the signs of elder abuse and elder neglect are similar, neglect often stems from lack of services or care, not intentional harm. Even so, neglect can be just as harmful to a senior as outright abuse.

Signs of Nursing Home Physical Abuse

The American Society on Aging states that symptoms of physical abuse can manifest as behavioral issues, either in addition to concrete, physical signs, or on their own. The two often overlap, such as when an elderly person is tied to a bed or wheelchair; he or she may have restraint marks on the wrists and ankles, or may also suddenly begin exhibiting withdrawal, fear, or apathy. The most common overt signs of physical abuse include:

  • Burns;
  • Contusions;
  • Fractures;
  • Bruises;
  • Black eyes;
  • Welts;
  • Restraint marks on wrists or ankles;
  • Unexplained weight loss;
  • Lab evidence of medication overdose;
  • Injuries which occur over and over, or
  • Lack of administration of necessary medications

Behavioral signs are particularly important among seniors who have communication challenges—such as a person who has had a stroke. Further, behavioral signs are often the first indicators of abuse. If nursing home staff ever seem unwilling to leave you alone with your elderly loved one, this is a red flag and a sign that you should look for further signs of abuse. The most common behavioral signs of physical abuse include:

  • Nervousness;
  • Anxiety;
  • Depression;
  • Avoiding eye contact with loved ones;
  • Displays of anger;
  • Psychosomatic complaints, such as stomachaches or headaches;
  • Sudden fear of being touched;
  • Changes in sleep patterns;
  • Withdrawal from activities the senior once enjoyed, or
  • An unwillingness to eat formerly favorite foods.

Signs of Nursing Home Mental/Psychological Abuse

Like neglect, the signs of nursing home mental or psychological abuse can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from the normal signs of aging. Psychological abuse hurts the person in an emotional or mental manner. When a person is threatened, called names, ignored on a regular basis, called names, or yelled at, he or she is likely to suffer emotional harm. Caregivers in a nursing home can perpetrate psychological abuse through demeaning behaviors, aggressive behaviors, controlling behaviors, or isolating the elderly person from his or her loved ones or from regular activities. The following behaviors are common signs of psychological abuse:

  • The senior acts frightened or withdrawn;
  • The senior exhibits depression or confusion;
  • The senior suddenly loses interest in things he or she once enjoyed;
  • The senior is experiencing trouble sleeping;
  • You may notice the senior rocking back and forth or mumbling to himself or herself;
  • The senior often appears agitated;
  • The senior has regressed, exhibiting such behaviors as sucking or biting, or
  • The senior may exhibit wide mood swings.

If you notice the senior acting in any manner which is difficult to explain, you should be alert, watching for other symptoms of abuse. 

Signs of Nursing Home Sexual Abuse

When an elderly person is forced to have unwanted sexual contact with another person, sexual abuse has occurred. In a nursing home setting, a staff member may have made the senior watch pornography, remove his or her clothing, or touched the senior in an inappropriate manner. On the most severe end, rape or sexual assault could have occurred. Signs and symptoms of nursing home sexual abuse include:

  • Torn or bloody underwear or clothing;
  • Bleeding from the vagina or bottom;
  • Bruising on or around the breasts or genitals, or
  • Sexually transmitted diseases.

If you have strong reasons to suspect sexual abuse of an elderly person, you must take immediate action, speaking to law enforcement as quickly as possible.

Signs of Nursing Home Financial Abuse

A caregiver in a nursing home may perpetrate financial abuse on elderly residents, perhaps convincing the senior that the caregiver is a true friend while seeking control of the senior’s money, home, or other assets. If you notice things missing from your loved one’s room at the nursing home, or if you provide money for certain amenities which do not appear to be present, you might suspect financial abuse. While financial abuse of the elderly does not leave obvious, physical scars, it can nonetheless strip away the trust and self-esteem of the senior.

How the Finn Law Firm Can Help

If you suspect your loved one has experienced any type of abuse or neglect, it can be extremely beneficial to speak to an elder law attorney from the Finn Law Firm. The Finn Law Firm is located in Chicago, Illinois but extends its practice outside the city, helping victims in Joliet, Waukegan, Woodstock, Geneva, Sycamore, Rockford, Yorkville, Kankakee, Morris, Springfield, Ottawa, Peoria, Belleville and Edwardsville. The firm is also able to help those have been abused outside Illinois by working with local attorneys in your area. With more than 30 years’ experience, the firm’s principal attorney, Larry Finn, has the knowledge and skills necessary to help you and the victim through this difficult time. If compensation for the abuse is appropriate, the Finn Law Firm will work aggressively for a just settlement. With free consultations, we invite you to contact the Finn Law Firm today.   


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