When you place your loved ones in a care facility, you expect the staff to treat them with respect and meet all of their physical and health care needs. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen.

As the elderly population continues to grow more families turn to nursing homes to help them care for their aging parents and grandparents. Nursing home abuse and neglect has also turned into a growing problem.

The signs aren’t always obvious

Problems in nursing homes can range from outright physical abuse, such as striking the elderly person or depriving him of food or water, to neglect, which includes failing to provide safe, sanitary conditions. Nursing home abuse cases also sometimes deal with errors in the dispensing of medication or purposefully overmedicating to keep the elder sedated and easier to care for.

While issues such as bedsores, malnutrition, dehydration and severe injuries are clear indications that something is wrong, there are many other signs as well:

  • Unexplained injuries, bruises or abrasions
  • Broken eyeglasses
  • Sudden changes in the elder’s mood or behavior
  • An increase in anxiety and fearful behaviors
  • A caregiver who does not want/permit you to visit your loved one alone
  • Torn or stained clothing
  • Dirty conditions in the facility, including insect problems
  • The elderly person telling you there is any kind of abuse, mistreatment or neglect occurring

Keep in mind that nursing home abuse and neglect doesn’t always leave physical markers. Emotional and mental abuse can occur, and the signs often mimic that of other conditions, such as dementia. Any type of self-soothing behavior, including obsessive sucking, rocking or skin picking, may indicate abuse.

Financial abuse is also a concern, and family members should be on the lookout for changes in banking behaviors, missing funds or possessions, adding people to the elderly person’s bank account and any instances of the elder’s signature being forged.

Getting help

You know your loved one best, and if you feel like there is something “off” about a situation, you may be right. It’s important to take seemingly minor signs seriously – particularly if there is more than one indication that elder abuse or neglect may be going on. If you are unsure what to do once you suspect abuse is taking place, an attorney can provide more information.