It’s a sobering statistic. According to data from the National Ombudsman Reporting System (NORS), in 2014 (the latest year data is currently available) there were nearly 15,000 nursing home abuse complaints filed. With the baby boomers now flooding the 65 and older demographic, nursing homes and assisted living facilities are experiencing a population explosion, and that isn’t expected to decrease anytime soon. In fact, with more and more people choosing not to marry or have children, it’s predicted the number of “adult orphans”, elderly adults who need care but have no family to help, will skyrocket over the coming years. This unfortunately means that nursing home abuse will continue to be a problem. Abuse doesn’t just come from staff either. In many cases residents have been found to be abusing other residents. While sometimes this is because of something they can’t control, like dementia, the behavior still cannot be tolerated.
So what are some signs of nursing home abuse ? Let’s start with the obvious ones. Unexplained bruises, cuts, or other injuries, unexplained weight loss in an otherwise healthy person, and if the person is bedridden or has incontinence issues, bedsores or rashes. Other signs may not be so obvious. Look for changes in behavior. Withdrawal, depression, anger, and anxiety. Loss of appetite or increased need for sleep could also be signs. Another form of nursing home abuse is financial abuse. If you notice a loved one’s bank account has unexplained withdrawals, or that there are possessions missing from their room, that could be a big red flag.
If you do spot things that could be signs of abuse, sit down and talk with your loved one. Many abuse victims are afraid to talk about what’s happening to them, so you need to make it clear you will keep them safe no matter what. If your loved one suffers from dementia or is unable to talk, you’ll need to figure out things on your own. In either case, document everything, take photos, get reports from the doctor, and if necessary, move your loved one out of the home and to a safe place. Making sure they are safe should be your first priority.
For further info on nursing care abuse and what to do about it, contact your local department of elder affairs or council on aging. To report actual incidents, contact the local police and the attorney general’s office.