​​​​You never want to be in the position of having to determine whether your loved one is suffering from nursing home abuse, but you also don’t want to let it continue to happen if they are. Learn to recognize the signs of abuse in nursing homes so you can hire an attorney here in Oklahoma City to investigate and file a lawsuit if necessary.

How to Recognize the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

Physical Abuse

This is one of the more obvious signs of abuse, but even so, perpetrators of physical abuse in nursing homes are adept at hiding the evidence. Obviously, if your loved one has suffered broken bones, dislocations, or sprains while they’re in a nursing home, you want to investigate further. This is particularly true if it’s happened more than once. The same is true if you see bruises, welts, or scars appearing on your loved one’s body with any frequency.

Other indications of physical abuse in a nursing home include broken glasses, signs of restraint (rope burns on the wrists), extra medication left over that shouldn’t be, running out of medication too soon, and the nursing home staff refusing to let you be alone with your loved one. This last one is important because your loved one may be hesitant to say anything about the abuse in front of the perpetrator and you’re not able to ask any questions, either.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is harder to see than physical abuse, but it’s just as important to stop. Your loved one’s behavior will dictate whether or not they’re being emotionally abused. If you notice unusual behaviors like mumbling to themselves, rocking side to side or back to front, or sucking their thumb, you may be witnessing their coping mechanisms for dealing with emotional abuse. Your loved one may also shut down completely and refuse to talk to you for fear of retribution.

Your loved one may also no longer want to participate in activities they used to enjoy. This is a symptom of depression, which can result from emotional abuse. If a nursing home caregiver is telling your loved one that they’re a burden or that no one cares for them, your loved one is going to become depressed. Be sure to ask your loved ones about the things they did during the time you weren’t there to see any new patterns.

Sexual Abuse

Thinking about sexual abuse in a nursing home is horrible, but unfortunately, it does happen, so you need to know the signs that it could have happened to your loved one. The most common signs of sexual abuse in elderly patients are unexplained sexually transmitted diseases or infections; bruising around the genital area or breasts; torn, bloody, or stained underwear; and anal or vaginal bleeding that is unrelated to a known medical condition.

As with emotional abuse, sexual abuse is often accompanied by depression, so if your loved one seems to be withdrawn or unwilling to participate in activities they usually enjoy, you should have your loved one examined by their physician. Additionally, you may notice that your loved one avoids a specific staff member or employee while you’re visiting. They may have been threatened with telling you about the abuse, or they simply are frightened of them.

Neglect

Neglect in nursing homes is a frequent problem because of staffing shortages, but that doesn’t mean you should accept it. Neglect is a form of abuse and should be remedied so that your loved one is not in danger due to inattention. Your loved one could be suffering from neglect if they’re living in substandard conditions (lack of heat or water, the presence of fire or health hazards) or if they aren’t being cared for properly.

Some signs that your loved one is not being cared for properly include not being dressed appropriately for the weather, not being washed or bathed regularly, being left in soiled bedding or clothing, the presence of bedsores on your loved one’s body, and unexplained weight loss or dehydration. Another possible sign is your loved one seeming “out of it” or more tired than usual, which could mean they’re being drugged so they won’t need as much care.

Financial Exploitation

Abuse isn’t always physical or emotional; it can be financial as well. Elderly people are particularly susceptible to financial exploitation because they’re more trusting of the people caring for them. If you notice unexplained withdrawals from your loved one’s accounts, a change in your loved one’s financial position, they are missing cash from their nursing home room, or there have been ATM withdrawals that your loved one could not have made, someone at the facility may be stealing from them.

You should also pay attention to your loved one’s credit report to ensure there are no new credit cards taken out in their name and that they aren’t making unusual purchases they don’t need or want. Also check for digital subscriptions under your loved one’s names, especially if they don’t have access to computers or the internet. Be sure to also make sure your loved one doesn’t change their beneficiaries or power of attorney on documents without checking with you.

Healthcare Fraud

While the caregivers at your loved one’s nursing home may not be stealing directly from your loved one, they could be stealing from the healthcare system and using your loved one as the mechanism for that to happen. For instance, if your loved one is getting more medication than they need, it’s possible the nursing home is claiming your loved one needs more so they receive more reimbursement from insurance. Too little medication could mean they’re pocketing payments.

Pay attention to your loved one’s medical explanations of benefits (EOBs) to make sure all services the nursing home is billing for are actually being performed. If not, or if you find services that are being double-billed, this is a sign that the facility is trying to get the insurance company to pay for services not provided. This is called healthcare fraud, and it’s illegal. Not to mention, it could hurt your loved one as well.

What to Do If These Signs Are Present in Your Oklahoma City Nursing Home

You don’t want to falsely accuse a nursing home of abuse unless you have proof, but you also don’t want your loved one to be in any danger. The best way to approach this is to first make sure your loved one is safe. This might mean moving them out of the nursing home or taking them to a hospital to have their injuries properly cared for. Then, contact an attorney who is experienced in nursing home neglect and abuse.

A nursing home neglect and abuse attorney will listen to your concerns and advise you on the next steps. You may need to file a formal complaint against the nursing home or have the attorney further investigate your complaints to determine their validity. If evidence of abuse or neglect is found, more severe actions will need to be taken, and your attorney will help you do this so that no one else can be hurt by the nursing home’s staff.

Making the decision to move a loved one into a nursing home is difficult, but it’s even harder when your loved one could be suffering from abuse or neglect. Contact Cannon & Associates in Oklahoma City, OK to learn more about how we can protect your loved one and seek justice on their behalf.