Recognizing the signs of nursing home abuse or neglect

Nursing home abuse and neglect are disturbingly prevalent in our country. There are many signs to look for that may signal abuse.

In an ideal situation, Detroit residents with a loved one in a nursing home could rest assured that their relative is being treated kindly and with respect and dignity. Unfortunately, many nursing homes are less than ideal. In some cases, senior citizens are unintentionally neglected. In others, the nursing home staff deliberately mistreats or abuses those under their care. Any of these situations are tragedies that should never occur, but unfortunately do.

Elder abuse is far more common than people would like to believe. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, between 7.6 and 10 percent of senior citizens were abused at some point in the past year. This number might be inaccurate, since some cases could go unreported.

The sad details

Hundreds of thousands of vulnerable seniors are exploited, ignored or abused each year in the country, states the United States Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living. The harm may include emotional, verbal, psychological, physical, sexual and financial abuse, in addition to unintentional neglect.

How harmful can nursing home abuse be? The damage can range from feelings of sadness, depression and fear, to serious injuries or the risk of being in a fatal accident. Falls are, by far, the most serious risk an elderly nursing home resident faces. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that between 100 and 200 falls occur in typical nursing homes each year. Falls in nursing homes account for 20 percent of fatalities involving falls of those older than age 65. Many falls in nursing homes are not reported, meaning the actual number of non-fatal falls could be much higher.

What to look for

Several signs may alert someone to a loved one's possible abuse or neglect, including the following:

  • Unexplained bruises, scratches, fractures or other injuries
  • Dirty clothing and bedding and poor hygiene
  • Bedsores, especially those that are not being treated or are getting worse
  • Withdrawal, fear, tension, depression and other signs of emotional trauma
  • Unexplained weight loss

The signs of nursing home abuse may be subtle and difficult to detect, especially concerning emotional or verbal abuse. Sometimes, you may just need to go with a "gut feeling." In many cases, the staff or directors of nursing homes are hesitant to cooperate and will deny any accusations of wrongdoing. If you believe your relative is being mistreated in a nursing home, an experienced Detroit personal injury attorney may be able to help you protect your loved one and obtain compensation.