Recognizing Elder Abuse

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Sadly, over 30 percent of nursing homes and assisted living facilities in this country have been cited for some form of elder abuse. The poor quality of care provided has contributed to the rapid decline of residents in nursing homes. Since 1980, the number of seniors over the age of 75 residing in nursing homes has decreased, and there is a general sense of distrust lurking. Nevertheless, there are few alternatives for senior care, and many individuals must rely on them. Yet, there are important steps that can be taken to ensure your relative receives the best care possible. Below are some warning signs to consider if you suspect your loved one is experiencing some form of abuse:

Changes In Behavior
Individuals that are neglected or verbally abused are likely to express inconsistent or unusual behavioral patterns. An elder that complains of loneliness, pain, or appears fearful may be a victim of negligence. On visits, be sure your relative participates in daily recreational activities. Seniors should never be kept in isolation for days at a time. Also, assess you loved one every visit, and look for signs of weight loss (which can be an indicator of malnutrition) and bedsores. Bedsores that do not heal or have rapidly progressed to late stages is also a sign of neglect, particularly for elders with physical disabilities. These people should be moved regularly, and bedsores are likely to develop if seniors have been bed ridden for days. Also, be sure to listen to your relative's complaints, as they may provide you with evidence of verbal abuse and malpractice. Regular, unannounced visits ensure that employees are maintaining proper conduct.

Physical Signs of Abuse
If you suspect that malpractice is occurring within your relative's senior care residence, be sure to take detailed notes of any and all physical changes you observe. The most common signs of abuse are broken bones, untreated infections, bruises, and cuts. While it is fairly common for seniors citizens to experience health problems, they should be isolated incidents, not reoccurring events. You may need to take photographs as evidence of the abuse so that claims can be brought before a court.

Residence Environment and Staffing Patterns
Abuse is not always physical. As a result, you must also consider the typical appearance of the facility itself. Is the home clean and safe? Are residents kept clean, and are they provided with comforting amenities? All nursing homes must provide their residents with recreational activities in a sanitary environment. Keep in mind that, since the late 1980s, the federal government has taken on an active role to ensure nursing homes are adhering to certain standards. To fall into compliance with these laws, nursing homes must maintain certain staff-to-resident ratios. If you see that a facility is overcrowded, is understaffed, or both, the residence may be subject to citations. Moreover, you may need to consider removing your relative from the home, as residences that receive citations are often repeat offenders. Make sure to ask questions when you visit, and record all observations. A paper trail is needed to file formal complaints, file claims, and for investigations to be conducted.

Residence Policies and Regulations
Legally, a senior care facility cannot prohibit you from visiting your loved one. According to federal guidelines, a nursing home cannot enforce strict visiting hours or restrict you from visitation rights. If your relative is living in a home that upholds these policies, it is your responsibility to report them. While you want your family member to live in a safe, secure environment, there are additional factors to consider. All establishments should express a general sense of openness to visitors. Otherwise, you may have reasons to suspect that they are trying to hide something. You should never have to be granted permission to stop by, and impromptu visits should be warranted.
Unfortunately, elder abuse is frequently overlooked, and the distrust in nursing homes is increasing. With thorough inspections, however, you can locate a reputable establishment that offers optimal services. You should never have to worry about elder abuse when trusting others to care for your loved one. If you suspect abuse has occurred, there are countless attorneys available whom specialize in elder abuse and neglect cases, and a formal complaint should be filed immediately. Your relative's rights are at stake, and age should never be a limiting factor.


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