When your loved one can’t tell you about nursing home abuse

Elder couple holding hands

Placing a loved one in an Illinois nursing home or continuing care facility is an inherently difficult decision. It becomes even more so when the individual in question suffers from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or a related condition that affects the person’s ability to effectively communicate with others.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ National Center on Elder Abuse states that abuse of seniors in continuing care facilities is a growing problem, and one that warrants careful attention. An Illinois nursing home abuse attorney would advise that residents who place their loved ones in a continuing care facility learn to recognize signs of elder abuse. This is especially important in situations where the resident is unable to advocate on his or her own behalf. While there is still much to be learned about why elder abuse occurs, knowing how to spot the warning signs is a critical aspect of prevention. Here is a look at common types of elder abuse, and the signs Illinois residents must learn to recognize in order to stop it.

Recognizing signs of physical elder abuse

The NCEA defines physical abuse as “the use of physical force that may result in bodily injury, physical pain or impairment.” When seniors are unable to verbally express their concerns or fears due to dementia or a related condition, it is up to the public to advocate on their behalf. The NCEA advises that those who fear elder abuse be on the lookout for:

  • Signs of bruising, such as black eyes or welts
  • Broken bones or skull or bone fractures
  • Cuts, open wounds or other untreated injuries that may be partially healed
  • Broken glasses
  • Signs of restraint
  • A care provider’s refusal to allow the resident visitors

An Illinois nursing home abuse attorney recommends that anyone who suspects elder abuse be on high alert for less-obvious signs of abuse as well. A resident’s inability to make eye contact, an avoidance of visits from friends or family or other fearful behaviors may also indicate the presence of abuse.

Recognizing signs of sexual elder abuse

According to the NCEA, any type of sexual contact with an elderly individual who is unable to give consent constitutes sexual abuse. Those who suspect sexual abuse of an elder should be on the lookout for several key signs. These include bruising around the breasts or genitals, unexplained bleeding from genital areas, ripped or bloody clothing or an inexplicable sexually transmitted disease or infection. Anyone who suspects sexual abuse should promptly contact law enforcement.

Recognizing signs of other forms of elder abuse

Elder abuse cases aren’t necessarily physical or sexual in nature. Many elder abuse cases involving patients with dementia are psychological, exploitative or related to neglect or misadministration of medication. An Illinois nursing home abuse attorney advises anyone who suspects elder abuse to report it immediately. Since many patients in today’s nursing homes and continuing care facilities cannot communicate for themselves, the responsibility falls on the public to advocate for them.