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How to Identify Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

Stories of nursing home abuse and neglect are tragically, and disturbingly, common. If you have a loved one in a Massachusetts nursing home, don’t despair. There are ways to ensure that your loved one receives proper care in a safe, compassionate environment. Read on to learn how about choosing the best nursing home for your loved one, and how to identify elder abuse and neglect.

Choosing the Best Nursing Home for Your Loved One

If you are still in these preliminary stages, ask around. Once you’ve gotten referrals for good nursing homes, visit them yourself. The questions below will help you know what to look for when you visit.

  • Ask if you and your loved one can have a meal in the dining hall. How does the food look and taste? Meal times are also a good opportunity for social engagement. Do residents look happy? Are they smiling and talking freely?
  • Does the home look and smell clean? Nursing homes can have less-than-pleasant odors, but if the building reeks of garbage, stale urine, and feces it may indicate a larger problem.
  • Observe the staff. Do they appear to enjoy their job? Do they seem overworked and easily agitated? Do they interact well with each other? And you can do more than observe. Asking the staff these questions directly can tell a lot.
  • Also ask the staff about a day in the life of a resident. How do they spend their afternoons? Are there activities available throughout the day, or is everyone hidden away in their rooms, watching television alone?

Types of Abuse and Neglect

Elder abuse isn’t always physical. Emotional and financial abuse can be more difficult to detect. Types of abuse and neglect common in nursing homes include:

  • Physical abuse: hitting, smacking, shoving, over-use of restraints, force feeding
  • Psychological or emotional abuse: threats, humiliation, manipulation, isolation, withholding food
  • Neglect: not giving proper medications or dosages, lack of food and water, unsanitary bed linens and clothing, failing to regularly move an immobile patient to prevent bedsores
  • Financial exploitation: using money or property without the elder’s permission, forcing the elder to sign over a will or deed, forging the elder’s signature on financial documents, identity theft, stealing money
  • Sexual abuse: any type of unwanted contact of a sexual nature, including touching, rubbing, sexual assault, and rape

Signs of Abuse or Neglect

If you notice any of the following signs of elder abuse or neglect, talk to your loved one. A MA nursing home abuse attorney can help you determine how to proceed if your loved one has been harmed.

  • Depression
  • Appearing withdrawn or unwilling to talk
  • Sudden sleep problems
  • Unexplained bruises
  • Bedsores
  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Appearing fearful of caregivers
  • Poor hygiene
  • Unclean living area
  • Sudden changes in financial situation

How to Report Abuse

If you are unsure whether your loved one is the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, the Elder Abuse Suspicion Index (EASI) may help. The EASI is comprised of six questions intended to help medical professionals determine if elder abuse is occurring. They are:

  1. Do you rely on another person to bathe, dress, shop, bank, or eat?
  2. Has anyone prevented you from obtaining the things you need, such as food, clothing, medical care, medication?
  3. Has anyone talked to you in a way that makes you feel threatened or ashamed?
  4. Has anyone forced you, or attempted to force you, to use your money?
  5. Has anyone made you feel uncomfortable or fearful, or subjected you to unwanted physical touching or harm?
  6. This last question is for the physician: In the last 12 months, have you noticed any of the following: issues with hygiene or medication compliance, bruises, cuts, poor eye contact, a withdrawn nature, or undernourishment?

Answering “yes” to any of these questions may be cause for concern. If you suspect nursing home abuse, immediately report the abuse to one of the nationwide offices of Adult Protective Services. An experienced Boston nursing home abuse attorney can help you recover damages if a loved one has been the victim of elder abuse or neglect.

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