Deciding to place a loved one in a nursing home is one of the hardest decisions we have to make. So when you decide a nursing home is the best choice, the first concern you face is finding a place you can trust and that is safe. Sadly, reports of nursing home abuse and neglect are all too common and are grossly underreported or overlooked. Because nursing home abuse can take many forms, it is important to know the types of abuse so you can better protect your loved one.

According to the National Center of Elder Abuse (NECA), there are seven main types of abuse that occur in nursing home: physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment, financial or material exploitation, and self-neglect. Knowing the different types and how to recognize the warning signs of abuse is the best way to help keep your loved ones safe.

Physical Abuse

According to the NECA, physical abuse is the “use of physical force that may result in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment.” Physical abuse can be visible marks on the body and sudden changes in behavior. Here are some examples of physical abuse:

  • Hitting, striking (with or without an object), beating, pushing, shoving, shaking, slapping, kicking pinching, and burning.
  • The use of drugs and/or restraints inappropriately, force feeding, and physical punishment.
  • Bruising, black eyes, broken bones or fractures, open wounds and cuts, sprains, and dislocations
  • Broken eyeglasses, signs of restraint on wrists or legs, and torn and bloody clothing
  • Sudden change in your loved one’s behavior such as not wanting to be alone with caregiver, sedated or medication errors, dismissive or unusual caregiver behavior
Emotional or psychological abuse

The NECA defines emotional or psychological abuse as the “infliction of anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts.” You can recognize this type of abuse by the following signs:

  • Changes in behavior such as withdrawn, less communicative, isolated, depressed, mood swings, agitation, overly emotional
  • Rocking, biting, sucking, or fear of being touched
  • Frequent crying
  • Fear of caregiver
  • Caregiver insists on speaking for your loved one
  • Complaints of mistreatment or verbal abuse
  • Report of physical abuse by resident
Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is “non-consensual contact of any kind with an elderly person” or “sexual contact with any person incapable of giving consent” according to the NECA. The warning signs and symptoms to look for are:

  • Venereal disease or unexplained genital infections
  • Bruising in the genital area, breasts, or buttocks
  • Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding
  • Torn, stained, bloody clothing or bedding.
  • Refusal to be seen naked or change clothing
  • Report of sexual abuse by resident

The NECA defines neglect as “the refusal or failure to fulfill any part of a person’s obligations or duties to an elder.” Sometimes these duties can include being responsible for the financial responsibilities of a nursing home resident. Neglect is of one of the most common complaints of nursing homes. Signs and symptoms of neglect include:

Dehydration, malnutrition, lack of hygiene, lice,

  • Open wounds, bedsores
  • Untreated medical problems, missed medication, dosage errors, incorrect medication
  • Dirty bedding, clothing, and/or living conditions,
  • Hazardous objects around residents, lack of water, heat electricity
  • Report of neglect by resident

Abandonment is defined as the “desertion of an elderly person by an individual who has assumed responsibility for providing care for an elder, or by a person with physical custody of an elder,” according to the NECA. Abandonment is the most straightforward of the abuse types. What vary in abandonment are the places where your loved one can be abandoned. They are as follows:

  • Hospitals, doctor’s office, nursing facility
  • Shopping center or public location
  • Special outing location sponsored by nursing home
  • Report of being abandoned by resident
Financial or material exploitation

When nursing home staff illegally or improperly uses an elder’s funds, property, or assets, the NECA considers this financial or material exploitation. The red flags of this type of abuse are:

  • Unusual banking practices or changes in banking account
  • Large withdrawals or unauthorized withdrawals
  • The addition of names on elder’s bank signature card
  • Sudden changes to will or other financial documents
  • Unexplained missing funds or valuable possessions
  • Unpaid bills
  • Forged documents
  • Unexplained transfer of titles or assets
  • Usually large gifts to caregivers
  • Report of financial exploitation by resident

The NECA defines self-neglect as “the behavior of an elderly person that threatens his/her own health or safety” and excludes a “mentally competent older person who understands the consequences of his/her actions.” In the latter case, the NECA deems it a voluntary act that is a personal choice. Self-neglect can look like a combination of the other types of abuse:

  • Dehydration, malnutrition, poor hygiene, untreated medical conditions
  • Hazardous or unsafe living conditions
  • Dirty living conditions
  • Inadequate or inappropriate clothing, lack of medical aids

The NECA suspects that one in 12 older adults over 60 is abused or neglected in the United States and out of those 12, only one in 5 are reported. Nursing homes residents have the “right to be free from verbal, sexual, physical and mental abuse, corporal punishment, and involuntary exclusion” according to federal regulations. The warning signs mentioned above are just a few ways you can spot abuse. If you have seen any of these signs or are suspicious of abuse or neglect, there are a few steps you should take. In the most serious cases where urgent care is needed, call 9-1-1 immediately. You will also want to call Adult Protective Services to report the abuse. In Kentucky, the law states you have 1 year generally from the time you discover the abuse to report the abuse. Valid cases can recover costs of medical treatment, pain and suffering compensation, and possibly punitive damages. This is where Curtis Legal Services is here to help. If you suspect your loved one has suffered abuse or neglect at the hands of their nursing home staff, give us a call at 606-324-5435 for a FREE consultation. We are here to help stop the abuse and make the parties involved accountable.