Spotting the signs of elder abuse – which can take many forms – can actually save someone’s life.
In October 2014, a Bridgeport woman's tracheostomy - a device that helps patients breathe - was found on her bed in a local nursing home. According to WTNH, the woman was found unresponsive on the floor. She was later pronounced dead, but the family never received information from the home as to exactly what happened.
The facility has previously been cited for lacking the appropriate amount of staff to properly care for residents. Another citation reported that the facility failed to do the correct background check to determine if the nurse had ever abused or neglected patients. The state is investigating this case.
Unfortunately, elder abuse happens all too often. Anyone who has a loved one in an adult care facility should know how to spot the signs of the behavior before it becomes too late.
There are many forms that elder abuse can take, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For example, physical abuse, which many may initially call to mind, occurs when a senior experiences physical injury. However, elder abuse involves any intentional acts that cause harm, such as the following:
- Neglect: Nursing home staff members may fail to properly care for a patient.
- Abandonment: People who take responsibility for seniors and then desert them have committed abandonment.
- Sexual abuse: Any non-consensual sexual activity constitutes abuse.
- Emotional abuse: Verbal and nonverbal acts can cause distress and mental anguish.
Any professionals who suspect abuse are required by law to report it to the state Department of Social Services.
Recognize the signs
The National Center on Elder Abuse reports that there are both physical and behavioral symptoms that could mean an elderly loved one has suffered abuse. For example, unexplained bruises, burns and broken bones could indicate either physical harm or mistreatment. A patient could also appear dehydrated or malnourished.
Behaviorally, someone who is abused may suffer from depression or show signs of withdrawal. It is also possible for family members to pick up on the way their loved one and a caregiver interact. If, for example, there are frequent arguments or an apparently strained relationship between the two, it could imply that abuse is present.
If there is an immediate threat of danger, the abused or loved ones can call 911 for help. The Connecticut Department of Social Services notes that suspected mistreatment should be reported to its protective services for the elderly division. DSS can then intervene and coordinate care. The U.S. DHHS notes that any calls to an adult protective services agency remain confidential. Caseworkers will conduct an investigation into the matter. Lastly, anyone who is dealing with elder abuse should contact an attorney.