Signs Your Elderly Loved One May Be Abused in Their Nursing Home

By Peter DePaolis

Nursing homes can provide excellent care to elderly residents.  Unfortunately, too many do not provide the kind of care your loved one deserves, resulting in the abuse of their elderly residents.  If you have a loved one in a nursing home, it is important you understand the signs of elder abuse to ensure that your loved one is being properly cared for.

What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse takes several different forms, including physical, emotional, and financial abuse.

Physical elder abuse occurs when someone asserts non-accidental force against an elderly individual that results in pain, impairment, or even death.  It can manifest in the improper use of drugs upon the elderly resident or even the unnecessary use of physical restraints upon the resident.

Emotional elder abuse can include verbal abuse, ignoring the elderly resident, or isolating the elderly resident.  The consequences of this type of abuse are just as severe as physical abuse, as they can leave elderly residents in states of pain, distress, anxiety or fear. 

Finally, financial abuse is, unfortunately, one of the most common forms of elder abuse, and can come at the hands of professional caregivers who interact with elderly patients every day, and who are in positions of authority over the residents.  Staff can abuse their position of authority to extort money from the resident or gain access to a resident’s financial accounts.  

How Can I Spot Elder Abuse?

Physical abuse is often the easiest kind of abuse to identify, as it manifests as bruises or other injuries.  Other kinds of abuse are much harder to spot.  Emotional elder abuse is often hidden, as nursing home staff will not engage in this conduct when family members come to visit.  Financial abuse can be hidden as well if the elderly resident does not know their finances are being compromised or if they are ashamed to admit they were extorted by staff.

One of the best ways you can identify this kind of abuse while it is happening is to ask your loved one questions in private about the kind of care they are receiving at the facility.  It is important to ask them in private so no nursing home residential staff are present to pressure them into silence, and so the elderly resident feels they can speak freely.  Ask them if they have experienced problems with any staff members.  Reassure them that they can count on you to help them if there are any problems and that they are not burdening you by telling you about any problems.

Further, to prevent and identify financial abuse, you may want to consider putting their assets in a trust or identifying a guardian to manage their financial assets and make decisions for them.  Both of these options can serve as an additional check against financial abuse. 

What Do I Do if I Think My Loved One is Being Abused by Their Nursing Home?

Your loved one deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, and any abuse of them by purported caregivers should not be tolerated.  If you think a loved one is being abused by their nursing home, contact Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP immediately.  Our DC nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys are ready to fight for the safety and care your loved one deserves.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.