Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect – and What to Do if You See Them

This Elderly Man is exhibiting signs of Nursing Home Abuse.

You may be reluctant to admit the possibility that a loved one is being mistreated at a nursing home, even when signs of abuse or neglect appear. Perhaps you’ve noticed a parent has unexplained bruises, bedsores, or other injuries. Maybe a relative has been uncommunicative and isolated.

Whatever changes you’ve noticed, they seem suspicious, and you have questions.

Abused elders are often hesitant to discuss mistreatment out of shame or fear of retaliation.  Other times, their condition (dementia, difficulties communicating) prevent them from being able to raise the alarm. You shouldn’t let these factors prevent you from following up on your suspicions. In addition to sharing your concerns with the proper authorities, you may also wish to discuss the situation with an attorney.

If you suspect that your loved one has been harmed while in a nursing home or other long-term care facility in Washington State, Tinker Law Firm, PLLC can help. Our lawyers work to help victims and their families achieve justice through the pursuit of legal actions against those who mistreat vulnerable nursing home residents.

To find out more, speak with an experienced nursing home abuse attorney at Tinker Law Firm, PLLC. Call or contact us online now.

What are some key warning signs that a nursing home resident is a victim of abuse or neglect?

The National Ombudsman Reporting System (NORS) reports that the types of mistreatment that most commonly occur (in order of frequency) in nursing homes are physical abuse, psychological (emotional) abuse, gross neglect, financial exploitation, and sexual abuse.

Some signs of these different types of abuse are provided below.

Physical abuse

  • Unexplained cuts, bruises, welts, sores, or burns.
  • Grip marks or rope marks around the wrists.
  • Refusal to discuss how injuries occurred or dismissive attitude about injuries.

Psychological abuse

  • Withdrawal from normal activities.
  • Being uncommunicative or unresponsive.
  • Acting fearful or suspicious for no apparent reason.

Gross neglect

  • Lack of adequate food and water, appropriate clothing, basic hygiene, or medical aids (for example, glasses, walker, hearing aid, etc.).
  • Untreated bedsores.
  • Weight loss.

Financial abuse

  • Unusual bank account activity, such as large or unexplained withdrawals.
  • Accounts, property, or control of assets have been switched into somebody else’s name.
  • Signatures on checks that don’t match the elder’s signature.

Sexual abuse

  • Unusual vaginal or anal bleeding.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases or vaginal infections.
  • Torn or bloody undergarments.

What should I do if I suspect nursing home abuse or neglect?

If emergency treatment is not required, the first thing you should do if you believe a loved one is being abused or neglected is to talk to him or her if possible. Although victims of nursing home abuse are often reluctant to discuss what happened or have difficulty doing so, an open conversation is still a good way to get potential mistreatment out in the open.

Once you begin to notice signs of abuse or neglect, write them down. For example, if you find that your mother is disheveled each time you visit her in the nursing home, keep a record of the dates you visit, her exact condition, any comments she makes, etc. Having an organized history of your specific complaints can help you later, should you decide to take further action.

Abuse or neglect that creates an immediate threat to a loved one’s health should be reported to the local police or 911. Any mistreatment that is not an emergency should still be reported to the Washington State Department of Health, the Washington State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, or the Adult Protective Services (APS) office in your county. A formal investigation by a local health professional could uncover evidence of abuse.

If you’re ready to make a complaint to the facility, do so in writing (again, so you have a record) to the facility manager or supervisor. Involve the Ombudsman, whose name should be posted in the facility.  Note that complaining to the actual caregiver with whom you have an issue may not have the intended effect and, in fact, could provoke resentment that only worsens the abusive behavior.

You should also consider speaking with a lawyer. Elder abuse may constitute both a civil wrong and a criminal offense. A lawyer can advise you on how to safeguard an elderly friend, parent, or relative in the short-term, as well as explain what options you have in terms of taking legal action.

Speak with a Washington nursing home abuse lawyer free of charge.

Elder abuse can be a difficult topic to discuss, but airing your concerns might be the first step toward a solution. If you’d like to talk about your case confidentially with a skilled and sympathetic advocate, get in touch with Tinker Law Firm, PLLC to find out how we can help.

Our firm’s experienced lawyers have a proven record of getting results for our clients. We’re known, respected, and trusted for our handling of serious injury cases. One of our attorneys is also a nurse who worked in nursing homes before becoming a lawyer.

Call Tinker Law Firm, PLLC today or fill out our online contact form for a free claim evaluation.