1 in 10 elder Americans are abused or neglected, according to the National Center for Elder Abuse. Most often, the abuse is inflicted by a relative of the victim. But this is not always the case. Long-term care facilities, nursing homes and professional in-home caretaker services are not immune to bad actors. Caretakers and staff who abuse or neglect an elder can cause financial ruin, serious injury, and death.
This time of year, you may be preparing for visits to elderly parents or other relatives who you don't get to see that often. In this day and age, it's not at all uncommon for family members to live long distances from one another. These home-for-the-holiday visits are sometimes the moment when you realize your elder loved one is being abused. Below, we detail what to look for and what to do next.
What To Do During Your Visit
We all want our aging parents (and all of our aging relatives) to live with dignity and respect, just like we want for ourselves. If you are traveling to your loved one's assisted living facility or nursing home for the holidays, make sure you dedicate some time to listening to them and making sure they don't feel uncared for, threatened, exploited or abused. Here are a few things to do:
- Set aside time for a private conversation without other people around. Especially without any caregivers around. If a caregiver is abusing your parent, then they probably have an intimidating presence. Check in with your parent about how they like their home, how they like the caregivers, how they like the meals that are prepared for them, etc.
- Ask about new injuries, financial changes, social withdrawal or other atypical events. This may give your loved one an opportunity to reveal some things to you that they've been keeping secret.
- Call the local Long-term Ombudsman if you have suspicions. Find your local Ombudsman to report your suspicions. This program exists to advocate for long-term care patients and they know what to do when the signs of abuse are present. Rely on them to guide you.
It's not uncommon for victims of abuse to feel so ashamed and embarrassed that they keep it to themselves. As their adult child or other relative, it's up to you to determine when intervention is appropriate. It's also important to weigh this decision against your loved one's privacy, dignity and independence. There are no easy answers, but you should trust your gut if you suspect your parent is being abused.
Signs of Neglect or Abuse at the Hands of Others
Warning signs may be obvious to you or more subtle. Any change is important to note. Your loved one may begin acting differently, they may seem very fearful, or you may see the physical trauma with your own eyes. Here are some of the potential signs of abuse and neglect:
- Unexplained and/or unexplainable injuries
- Suspicious lacerations or fractures
- New bruising, recurrent bruising and/or severe bruising
- Bed sores (also called pressure ulcers)
- New depression and/or anxiety
- Social withdrawal and isolation
- Unhygienic physical condition
- Over-medicated condition
- Lack of getting basic needs met, such as dental care, routine vision care, hearing aids, haircuts, etc.
Abuse may be physical, sexual, emotional or financial. Unfortunately, these circumstances are not always so easy to recognize. Stay in touch with your aging loved one – open communication is the best way to check in and make sure your parent is getting the care they deserve.
Call Our Attorneys in South Carolina with Questions
The experienced nursing home abuse lawyers at Whetstone Perkins & Fulda know that aging adults have rights and should be kept safe from abusers and neglectful caretakers. We know all of the relevant federal and state laws protecting your loved one, and are ready to fight for justice on your family's behalf. For a complimentary consultation, please call our law firm at 803-799-9400. We have multiple locations, in Kingstree, Columbia, Myrtle Beach and Marion.