Experts estimate that up to two million Americans over the age of 65 have been mistreated, injured, or exploited by someone who is caring for them.
However, another estimate indicates that only one in every 14 incidents of elder abuse will be reported to officials. Only one in 25 situations that involve financial damage will be reported. That means that the actual number of cases of elder abuse could be significantly higher than estimates.
Spotting Elder Abuse & Neglect
One of the reasons that cases of elder abuse continue to go unreported is that they are notoriously difficult to detect. The elderly often cannot convey the message that they are being mistreated or neglected.
Even if they can, they may not want to for fear of backlash or embarrassment. In some unfortunate situations, an elderly person may report the incident, but loved ones do not take him or her seriously enough to investigate the complaint.
While nursing home abuse is hard to detect, you can look for the following red flags as signs that further investigation is warranted.
Obvious Signs of Physical Abuse
Bruising, open wounds, and bed sores are all signs that elder abuse has occurred. Bed sores are a clear sign of neglect, but other injuries may not be as apparent.
Ask your loved one how they got any particular injury. If they are vague or they do not want to talk about it, then that could be a sign of something more serious than simply running into a bedpost.
Poor Hygiene, Changes in Weight, and Loss of Hair
Neglect and malnutrition are severe concerns for elderly individuals. Neglect can lead to sudden changes in weight, loss of hair, and a general sickly appearance. Talk to the nursing home caretakers about your loved one’s condition. A visit to a medical professional may be a good idea.
Physical or Emotional Withdraw
Those suffering from abuse may not want to be as close with you as they once were. They may be standoffish and may be less willing to hug or touch others. Look for signs of uneasiness around staff as well. Abused individuals may be unsure of who to trust so they may withdraw altogether.
Missing Personal Items
Caretakers that financially abuse may engage in simple theft of your loved one’s belongs.
Keep an eye out for missing personal items, including jewelry or other valuable possessions. Ask your loved one where certain treasured items are from time to time. If he or she “loses” them or cannot explain where the object is, someone may be committing theft.
Abuse and neglect can lead to a whole host of other psychological issues for your loved one. Regression or a sudden inability to take care of themselves, for example, could be a sign of abuse. Sudden changes in mood could also indicate that something serious is happening behind closed doors. Social isolation can also result as well.
Strange Interactions with Staff
You should visit your loved one’s nursing home on a regular basis. Making some of these visits at unusual times or unannounced may help you spot problems.
If the staff refuse you access or delay that visit, that could be a sign they are attempting to hide more obvious indications of abuse or neglect. If a staff member refuses to leave the room while you are there, that could also indicate that they do not want your loved one to communicate freely with you.
Reporting Elder Abuse in Arizona
If you suspect physical abuse or neglect is happening to a loved one, there are steps you can take. Begin documenting everything.
Take pictures and write down the signs you are noticing. Take note of what staff member say or do and the dates that incidents are occurring. When voicing your concerns to management, it is helpful to have a record of the interactions and what was said. Voicing your concerns in writing can be useful.
You should also contact authorities. If you or a loved one is in immediate danger, contact your local law enforcement agency. You can also call the Arizona Department of Economic Security’s Adult Protective Services or the Arizona Ombudsman to report abuse.
Elder Abuse and Legal Liability
The abuse or mistreatment of elderly people is illegal. In some cases, it can have criminal consequences. It can also be grounds for a civil complaint. You or your loved one may be able to recover compensation for pain and suffering, medical bills, and other related damages if nursing home abuse occurs. A lawsuit may also help prevent situations where others are injured too.
Contact Yearin Law Office Today
The Yearin Law Office has extensive experience with elder abuse cases in Arizona. Contact our team today to learn more about how we can help you and your loved one in this difficult situation. Call (480) 502-0708 today!