We are often faced with the decision to entrust the care of our loved ones to the staff of a nursing home. You are not alone in this decision; approximately 1.4 million American seniors resided in nursing homes in 2014. Unfortunately, as the number of residents in nursing homes increases, instances of elder abuse become more common for residents and their loved ones.
Signs of Abuse versus Signs of Aging
Studies indicate that in many cases, elder abuse goes unreported. In some instances, this may be a result of confusing signs of abuse as ordinary signs of aging. Since our loved ones change as they age, we may be missing signs of abuse, including:
- Withdrawal and depression: Seniors are at much greater risk of suffering from depression; their lifestyles often change dramatically when they are moved into a nursing home. Unfortunately, it is easy to attribute a change of moods as a part of aging. However, if your loved one suddenly starts avoiding your hugs, seems to be more emotional than usual, or shows other signs of withdrawal and depression, you may want to consider talking to them. If they are being verbally abused, ignored when they need care, or a nursing home staff member is trying to control them, these may be signs of psychological abuse.
- Bruising and abrasions: Seniors are more likely to have bruises and scrapes as they age, as their skin no longer has the same elasticity or thickness. However, if you are regularly seeing bruises and scratches, it is a good idea to document these incidents to see if there is a pattern of excessive bruising or scratches that seem unusual. If nursing home staff members are handling your loved one in a rough enough manner to cause extended bruising, physical abuse is a possibility. Be particularly aware of bruising on upper arms, wrists, and elbows.
- Torn clothing and other signs: Many of us are surprised to see ripped, torn, or worn-out clothing on our loved ones. Do not make the mistake of thinking this is because the garments are worn out or getting old; instead, look for other signs such as bleeding, or injury to the genital area. These could be early warning signs of sexual abuse.
- Personal appearance changes: If your loved one shows signs of being unclean or unkempt, including dirty hair, unshaven face, or skin rashes, this could be a sign of neglect. You should also make sure their personal care items such as dentures, eyeglasses, and hearing aids are being provided on a regular basis. Should you notice anything that seems out of the ordinary, you should document it carefully, and make sure the signs are not a result of neglect of your loved one.
Steps to Ensure Your Loved One’s Safety
Should you notice any signs of potential abuse or neglect, the first step you should take is to discuss your concerns with them. Should your loved one refuse to discuss the matter or appear hesitant to speak openly, this could be a further signal there is something wrong.
The next step is to contact the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-962-2873 to report suspected abuse or neglect. They will investigate the matter, and attempt to follow up with you as soon as possible. In the meantime, it is a good idea to contact an attorney who has experience dealing with nursing home abuse and neglect claims.
It is not typically advised to confront nursing home staff members on your own; make sure to speak with an attorney first. If you are concerned about your loved one’s safety or well-being, you may need to consider moving them to another facility. An attorney can help you devise a safety plan for a loved one who may have experienced abuse or neglect.
Understanding the Long-Term Issues
Keep in mind, if your loved one is suffering at the hands of nursing home staff members, they are at a greater risk of death. Physical abuse could result in serious injury, which can lead to sudden death. Psychological abuse is a dangerous condition as well; prolonged abuse can result in depression, anxiety, or trauma, and isolated elders frequently lack the support structure many of us take for granted.
We understand the costs involved in moving your loved one are substantial. It takes time to find another suitable facility. However, if your loved one is suffering from abuse or neglect, it may be your only option. The financial burden for this type of transfer should be borne by the party responsible for the abuse, and therefore, it is important to work with a nursing home abuse lawyer.
What to Prepare When Working With an Attorney
Whenever possible, you should document any suspected abuse or neglect. Many forms of abuse may not be able to be photographed, but a written record of your observations is helpful to have. In addition, any calls you have made to the Senior
Abuse Hotline, discussions you have had with your loved one or nursing staff, and observations by other family members should be carefully documented. These types of records make it easier to thoroughly explain your concerns to a nursing home abuse lawyer.
Call Sibley Dolman Now to Protect Your Loved One
Florida has a high nursing home population, and it is expected to continue growing. Short-staffing at nursing homes is a frequent cause of neglect, but this does not mean your loved one should be suffering because of the facility management’s lack of concern for residents. Contact the Aventura office of Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP if you believe your loved one has suffered abuse or neglect in their care facility. We can thoroughly review your information, and help you determine if you have a case against the facility.
We can be reached by telephone at (954) 302-7068, or contact us using our simple online contact form for a free consultation.
Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP
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Aventura, FL 33180
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