Having an elderly loved one in a nursing home or assisted-living facility is a difficult position to be in. By and large, it’s what’s best for everyone, but there still might be lingering feelings of guilt and helplessness.
In these situations, peace of mind is paramount. You need to be able to trust the facility to take care of your loved one. When you suspect they might be a victim of elder abuse, it will completely undo any serenity you might have.
It’s not always easy to tell when a loved one is being abused or taken advantage of. Elderly people living with abuse might not make it known. They could be embarrassed to talk about it or afraid of any repercussions. They might not even realize it’s going on. But if you know what to look for, you can help make sure your loved ones stay safe.
So how can you tell if something’s wrong? What are the warning signs of elderly abuse in nursing homes? Those are the questions we’re here to answer today.
Warning Signs of Elder Abuse
Elder abuse comes in different forms. All of them can be equally traumatizing for both your loved ones and for you.
One of the most common and obvious forms of abuse is physical. It can include hitting, kicking, shoving or burning the victim. It could also be something less obvious like tying them to a bed or wheelchair, locking them in a room or giving them wrong medication.
Most signs of physical abuse are visible injuries, but look out for the following signs:
- Unexplained bruises, cuts, scars or burns
- Broken bones
- Repeated or related injuries
- New side effects from medication
- Visible fear or discomfort when a caretaker is present
Another common type of elder abuse is sexual abuse. An elder person could be forced to participate in or watch sexual acts. Sexual abuse includes rape, molestation, stripping, or being forced to watch pornography or others having sexual intercourse.
Sexual abuse signs are also mostly physical, but keep an eye out for any of the following:
- Sudden changes in mood or behavior
- Torn or bloody clothes, especially underwear
- Sexually transmitted diseases or infections
- Bruises, cuts or lacerations, especially on both sides of the body or around the breasts, genitals, wrists or ankles
- Bleeding from the vagina or anus
Emotional & Psychological Abuse
These forms of abuse are less obvious, but they’re just as damaging. Emotional & psychological abuse can take many forms, like taunting, belittling, yelling at, threatening or ignoring your loved one. Keeping them from seeing friends and relatives is also a form of emotional abuse.
Watch for signs of abuse in your loved one’s actions and relationships with you and others. Signs of emotional and psychological abuse could include the following:
- Acting withdrawn or frightened
- Trouble sleeping
- Unexplained mood or behavioral changes
- Psychological trauma signs, like rocking back and forth or mumbling to themselves
- Depression, confusion or losing interest in hobbies or activities
Neglect & Abandonment
Sometimes the elderly aren’t so much “abused,” but they’re neglected or abandoned. Neglect is when caregivers don’t tend to the elder’s needs. Abandonment is when they’re left alone entirely.
The caregivers could be withholding food, water, clothing or medications, or they could neglect to help bathe, dress or pay bills. Most of the time, neglect is intentional, but it could also be incompetence by the caregiver or facility.
If your loved one is being neglected, you might notice these signs:
- Body odor, dirty clothes and unkempt hair
- Messy, unclean or unsafe living conditions
- Unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite
- Bedsores or skin rashes
- Missing or broken dentures, eyeglasses, hearing aids or walkers
Financial Abuse & Healthcare Fraud
These types of abuse have to do with the elder’s money and property. A caregiver might steal cash, credit cards or bank account info. They could also forge signatures on loans or legal documents, like a will or power of attorney.
Similarly, healthcare fraud can be committed by doctors, hospital staff or other healthcare workers. It can include overcharging, double-billing for the same service, falsifying Medicaid or Medicare claims, or charging for care that wasn’t provided.
Keep an eye out for these signs of financial abuse or healthcare fraud:
- Unexplained charges to cards or withdrawals from bank accounts
- Unpaid bills, suspended utilities, or threats of eviction
- Receiving multiple invoices for the same service, or invoices for treatments that weren’t done
- Missing financial statements or legal documents
- Incorrect information on medical or health insurance documentation
- Waived deductibles or copayments without explanation
What You Can Do
If you suspect your loved one is the victim of any type of elder abuse, you need to speak up right away. It could save their life, or at the very least, improve their quality of living.
The first thing you should do is talk to your loved one. It’s best to start by saying you think something is wrong and you want to help. If they won’t answer, it’s possible they’re being abused. If they confirm the abuse, or you suspect they’re in danger, call 911.
If the problem isn’t urgent, or if they dismiss the questions but you still have suspicions, you can contact Oklahoma Adult Protective Services. You don’t need proof of the abuse to call. APS will send someone to check out the report and take any necessary actions.
There are also other national, state and local resources available to you for support and guidance:
- The Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Initiative provides resources specifically for Oklahoma.
- The National Center for Victims of Crime’s Financial Crime Resource Center can help with identity theft and other financial crimes.
- FINRA has a Securities Helpline for Seniors with investment or brokerage accounts.
Lloyd & Lloyd Is Here to Help
It never hurts to get a second opinion. Talk to the legal experts at Lloyd & Lloyd to see if you are dealing with abuse and what course of action you should take. Don’t let nursing homes and caretakers get away with abuse. Get answers from Lloyd & Lloyd now with a free case assessment. You can contact us here or call us at 918-246-0200.