9 Signs Your Loved One May Be Suffering From Elder Abuse
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of J.D. Smith with Law Office of J.D. Smith, PLLC.
Elder abuse and neglect can take many forms, from physical abuse to emotional, sexual, and even financial. Unfortunately, elder abuse can be particularly hard to identify, especially when the victim is unable or unwilling to discuss their situation. Elder abuse is most commonly committed by family members and friends when at home, but is also common in nursing homes and care facilities where staff members and/or other residents could engage in neglectful or abusive behavior. The good news is that for elder abuse victims, there are options for recovery.
9 signs that could indicate your loved one is suffering from elder abuse include:
- Bedsores: Bedsores, also known as “pressure ulcers”, are injuries that develop on a person’s skin or tissue when they sit or lay in the same position for too long. The pressure can wear away the skin and result in ulcers or open wounds that are extremely painful, range in severity, and require medical attention. It is a caretaker’s or nursing home’s responsibility to prevent bedsores and quickly treat any that do arise. Stage 3 and 4 bedsores can result in permanent damage and should never occur.
- Unexplained bruising/injuries: Whenever an elderly person presents with unexplained bruising, bruising in private or unusual places, or other injuries including broken bones, this could indicate physical or sexual abuse is occurring or has occurred recently. Similarly bruising and injuries that occur with explanations that just don’t right could also indicate abuse and an attempt to cover up that abuse
- Malnutrition/dehydration: Caretakers and nursing homes alike are responsible for making sure that elderly people in their care are receiving proper meals, nutrition, medication, and hydration. If an elderly loved one appears malnourished or dehydrated, this could indicate that their most basic needs are being neglected. While neglect and abuse occur often but not always together, they are closely related and can be equally dangerous.
- Anxiety or depression: Anyone who has suffered abuse or neglect can develop anxiety and/or depression about their life and living situation. If a loved one suddenly seems anxious around certain people or in certain situations or depressed in general, this could indicate they are suffering from the mental damage which often coincides with abuse and neglect.
- Personality or behavior changes: If a loved one’s personality or behavior changes drastically or quickly, this could indicate something serious is affecting their mental/emotional state. Behaving with uncharacteristic aggression or irritability are common signs that an elderly person is struggling with abuse.
- Unsanitary conditions: If the conditions in which your elderly loved one is living appear unclear or unsanitary, this could indicate their basic care is being neglected. While one day of an untidy room or unwashed dishes might not mean much, when an environment is frequently unhygienic, it can put an elderly person not only at risk of becoming ill or depressed but could also indicate that neglect is occurring in other areas as well.
- Understaffing: Understaffing is one of the biggest problems in nursing home environments. If your loved one struggles to have their needs met in a timely manner, and/or staff are constantly rushing from place to place, looking stressed and burnt out, this could indicate a facility is suffering from understaffing. Nursing homes are legally obligated to ensure their facilities are fully staffed to ensure residents can receive the care they need when they need, as well as to prevent burn out in workers that can result in neglectful and abusive behavior.
- Inconsistencies with financial accounts: If bills are mysteriously going unpaid or credit cards, checks, and money are going missing, this could indicate that financial abuse is at play. It’s important to keep up with your elderly loved one’s financial situation so that you are able to detect any inconsistencies or missing funds that could indicate your loved one is suffering from theft or exploitation.
- “Gifts” being given to friends/family/staff: A common warning sign that could indicate financial abuse is finding out that your loved one has been “giving gifts” to friends, family, or staff members that they usually would not. If these gifts seem unusual, untimely, or are otherwise unexpected or out of character, this could indicate your loved one is suffering from financial abuse or exploitation.
If you suspect an elderly loved one may be suffering from elder abuse or neglect, contact your state’s adult protective services and elder abuse hotline, document the events as well as possible, and reach out to an elder abuse attorney in your area to discuss your options. Your loved one may be eligible to file a claim against the abuser and seek compensation for damages including medical bills, emotional distress, and more. If you suspect an elderly person is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.