Families looking for a nursing home for an elderly loved one have a difficult challenge. They often rely on the appearance of the facility and the friendliness of the staff to gauge the quality of a nursing home. When a facility is clean and well-kept with a director who seems knowledgeable about what goes on in the building, families feel confident about quality of care. Good reviews and a clean history for violations are reassuring as well.
Unfortunately, just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t judge a nursing home by its appearance. Nursing home companies pour money into the exterior because they know first impressions count. Directors are trained to deal with people, so they know what aspects of the facility to emphasize and what aspects to gloss over. Some staff members may be very caring, but others may be downright abusive.
Your loved one may not be able to tell you if they’re being abused, or they may feel guilty about complaining. It’s up to you to look for signs of nursing home abuse or neglect.
Here are three common warning signs that your loved one may be the victim of nursing home abuse:
1. Change in physical appearance
Was hairstyling always important to your elderly relative, but now his or her hair is dirty and unkempt, or worse, falling out? Is there sudden weight loss or gain, or signs of malnutrition or dehydration such as pale skin or bedsores? Is it chilly in the nursing home but your loved one is dressed for the heat? These are subtle signs your loved one is not being taken care of properly. More obvious signs include bruises, welts, broken bones (that aren’t well-documented and explained by the staff) and especially signs of being restrained, like marks that look like rope burns on the wrists or ankles. Basically, if your loved one looks markedly different in a short period of time, their change in physical appearance may be a sign of abuse.
2. Change in emotional state
Emotional abuse can be hard to detect in elderly nursing home residents because signs may mimic dementia, and many elderly live in nursing homes because they suffer from dementia. Still, if your loved one seems suddenly quiet and withdrawn when he or she used to be outgoing, or is acting out, this may be a reaction to physical or emotional abuse. Elderly people may use the same coping mechanisms that abused children use, such as sucking, rocking, or mumbling repeatedly. If you witness a caregiver being threatening, degrading, or controlling, these are signs of abuse, too.
3. Change in living conditions
Sometimes a nursing home can be well-maintained and house caring staff when an elderly person moves in, but over time and perhaps changes in management the quality of the facility deteriorates. Serious degradation in a building’s interior – especially your loved one’s living space – is a sign of abuse. Red flags for unsanitary living conditions include bug infestations, visible dirt, soiled bedding, and dirty clothing.
If you think your loved one may be the victim of nursing home abuse, report it. You can reach the Virginia Adult Protective Services hotline at (888) 832-3858. If you learn that your loved one has been abused, contact a Virginia Beach and Norfolk nursing home abuse attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.