Signs of nursing home abuse or neglect can be both physical and behavioral, and it is important to be vigilant in recognizing these signs to protect the well-being of residents. As an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer – including those who practice at Glotzer & Leib, LLP – can confirm, not every red flag will ultimately prove to be evidence that abuse has occurred. However, the prevalence of unlawful mistreatment of nursing home residents is such that loved ones should take warning signs seriously and should seek legal guidance if it truly seems that signs of mistreatment have not stemmed from innocuous circumstances.
Physical signs of abuse or neglect may include:
- Unexplained injuries: Bruises, cuts, fractures, burns, or welts that cannot be adequately explained by the resident or staff.
- Bedsores or pressure ulcers: These are often an indication of neglect, as they occur due to prolonged pressure on the skin when residents are not repositioned, bathed, etc. regularly.
- Unexplained weight loss: Sudden and significant weight loss can indicate malnutrition or dehydration, which may result from inadequate care or intentional neglect.
- Poor personal hygiene: Noticeable body odor, dirty clothes or bedding, unkempt appearance, or neglected oral hygiene can be signs of neglect or insufficient assistance with daily activities.
- Medication errors: Incorrect dosages, missed medications, or the administration of the wrong medication can result in adverse effects on a resident’s health.
- Restraint marks: Physical marks or injuries caused by the improper or excessive use of restraints, which can be a form of abuse are a cause for concern. Restraints can only lawfully be utilized under very specific circumstances.
Behavioral and emotional concerns
Behavioral changes in nursing home residents can often be indicative of abuse or neglect. Be wary of the following signs:
- Emotional withdrawal: Sudden changes in behavior such as social withdrawal, depression, or unresponsiveness may indicate mistreatment or neglect.
- Fear or agitation: If a resident exhibits signs of fear, anxiety, or agitation around certain staff members or in specific areas of the facility, it may be a red flag.
- Changes in sleep patterns: Insomnia, frequent nightmares, or restless sleep can be signs of emotional distress.
- Unexplained changes in mood or behavior: Uncharacteristic displays of anger, aggression, or emotional instability can be indicators of mistreatment.
- Social isolation: If a resident abruptly stops participating in activities they once enjoyed or avoids interactions with others, this may suggest emotional abuse or neglect.
The overall condition of the nursing home facility can provide clues about the level of care being provided. Look for the following environmental signs:
- Unsanitary or unsafe conditions: Foul odors, dirty living spaces, inadequate sanitation, unaddressed repairs, or unhygienic food preparation areas can all indicate a lack of proper care and attention.
- Inadequate staffing levels: If the facility appears understaffed, with caregivers seeming overwhelmed or rushed, it may result in neglect or substandard care for residents.
- Lack of personalization: A lack of personalized care plans, absence of resident-centered activities, or failure to address individual needs can suggest a neglectful environment.
- Financial exploitation: Signs of financial abuse can include sudden changes in the resident’s financial situation, unexplained withdrawals, missing personal items or valuables, or unauthorized use of the resident’s financial resources.
If you suspect any signs of abuse or neglect in a nursing home, it is crucial to take immediate action. Document your observations, report your concerns to the appropriate authorities, and consider involving legal professionals or advocacy organizations to better ensure the resident’s safety and well-being.