When you realize that your elderly loved one can no longer care for him- or herself, you must make the difficult decision to find a nursing home. You hope that the home you choose will care for your aging family member as you would.
Unfortunately, that does not always happen. More than likely, stories you hear about the neglect and abuse that can happen to the elderly in nursing homes only fueled the intensity of your search for the right home. You did your best, and now, you need to remain vigilant to make sure your loved one does not become the victim of abuse or neglect.
Factors that could indicate the risk of abuse
Whether in a nursing home or in-home health care is used, certain factors could put your loved one at risk for abuse:
- If it appears that caregivers don't manage stress well
- If the working conditions appear poor
- If each caregiver has too many responsibilities
- If caregivers lack the proper training
Some nursing home staff and caregivers do not deal well with verbally or physically aggressive patients, which could lead to abuse as retaliation. The extent of your loved one's dementia or illness could also play a role in whether abuse occurs, since he or she is unable to provide a defense.
The types of abuse your loved one could suffer
Abuse could be emotional, physical, sexual or financial. Any number of signs could give you clues to whether your elderly loved one's caregivers abuse him or her. You may want to question any bruises, cuts or lacerations. Bedsores are an indication of neglect but could also indicate abuse. Tension between caregivers and your aging relative provide a clue that something just isn't right. Personality changes also indicate something may be wrong.
If you suspect abuse, your first priority is to get your loved one to a safe place. If the abuse is financial in nature, you may want to take steps to protect the remainder of your loved one's property, including bank accounts.
What you can do about the abuse
If you do suspect that abuse is occurring, you have the right to speak up, especially if your relative hesitates to discuss the matter. The management of the nursing home ought to look into the matter, but that may not be enough. At the end of the day, the nursing home is a business, and it may do what is necessary to protect itself from legal action.
For this reason, you may want to involve an attorney in your inquiry, which could convince the nursing home to fix the situation instead of attempting to sweep it under the rug, as they say. Many nursing homes these days will do what they can to resolve the situation, but you still need to act as if you are the only advocate your aging family member has.