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9 warning signs of nursing home abuse

According to the Center for Disease Control, more than four million Americans enter or reside in long-term care facilities every year. If your parent or loved one lives in a nursing home, you may worry about them. Likely, you’ve heard troubling statistics about the rate of negligence and abuse in long-term care facilities. As a family member of someone who lives in a nursing home, you can actively watch for warning signs.

Here’s what to look out for:

  • Significant emotional changes. If your loved one begins to withdraw socially, from you or in general, it’s cause for concern. It could be clinical depression, or it could be situationally caused by trauma.
  • Physical infections or injuries. Your loved one is living here because they need special care and treatment. Sometimes accidents happen, but they should be rare and have a thorough explanation. The presence of unexplained bruises, persistent infections or other issues is cause for concern.
  • Deflected questions. If the staff refuses to answer your questions, it may be cause for alarm. Open communication is an indicator of trustworthiness. If they don’t make time for your questions, consider it a red flag.
  • Inadequate staff. When you visit your loved one, are the nurses frantic? Is there enough staff to care for the number of residents? If not, be wary.
  • Considerable staff turnover. If nurses and aides are continually coming and going, it may indicate what it’s like to work at this facility. This may not bode well for what it’s like to be a resident at this facility.
  • Fright or reluctance to be cared for by a specific staff member. If your loved one voices this concern, speak to management immediately. This concern is one of the most serious warning signs of neglect or abuse.
  • Phones ringing off the hook. This neglect in communication indicates that the staff is too busy to perform all their tasks. This sign begs the question, are they answering call lights from resident rooms?
  • Dehydration or malnourishment. Basic needs are the responsibility of the long-term care facility. If these needs are not met, are medical needs being neglected as well?
  • A bad feeling. If your gut is telling you something is wrong, listen to it. Ask questions, visit more and find out what’s happening.

Remember that these are potential indicators—not proof. There may be a logical explanation. However, each of these warning signs is enough to warrant an inquiry, especially if you’ve noticed more than one sign on this list.

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