Signs and Symptoms of Abuse or Neglect of the Elderly
As Baby Boomers age, our country has an increasing number of elders to care for. Nursing homes and elder care facilities often have qualified, compassionate staff who care for our elders when they are no longer able to care for themselves.
We imagine our elders being gently cared for by loving, supportive staff who cater to their every need. We expect our loved ones to not only receive professional medical care, but to also receive regular grooming, healthy and nutritious food, and even social opportunities if they are able. We hope that this level of care is delivered with gentleness and compassion that our elders deserve.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Facilities that serve elders are increasingly becoming overcrowded as our country’s population ages. Sometimes, this overcrowding means that our loved ones are sharing attention from the staff with many others, occasionally leaving an individual neglected.
In some of these facilities, individuals can sit alone in a hallway, unable to go anywhere else, for an entire day with little or no care at all. When medical emergencies and low staffing rates are combined, details like grooming can become a low priority. This is a serious problem because poor grooming can easily develop into an infection. Even a small infection can turn into a serious medical condition for our elders.
As much as we love our elders, it is very likely that we have all encountered situations in which our elders are unwilling to cooperate with medical staff (or even loving family members, for that matter). Our seniors can have frustrating behaviors at times, but regardless, there is never an excuse for abuse or negligence on the part of a caretaker.
Do you believe that a loved one in elder care is a victim of abuse or neglect?
It is easy to mistake the signs and symptoms of elder care abuse or neglect for medical conditions. You might even suspect typical signs of aging when the truth is your loved one is subject to abuse or neglect at his or her care facility.
If you have a loved one in elder care, visiting frequently can give you a wealth of information about the condition of their treatment. Visiting at irregular intervals that might catch the staff off guard will give you the most information about the true care of your loved one.
While visiting, be sure to watch out for signs and symptoms of elder care abuse or neglect.
Asking yourself some honest questions can help you to assess the level of care your elder is receiving.
How well groomed is your elder? Is he or she dressed appropriately for the temperature (or their own health needs) in clean garments? Do they appear to have bathed recently or are they dirty and unkempt looking? What about his or her bed? Have the linens been changed recently or do they appear soiled?
Unchanged linens or inadequate clothing changes might be a sign your elder is being neglected. Clothing, hygiene, and linens are basic needs all elders have and they should be refreshed as needed to prevent infections and other medical conditions.
Do you notice untreated sores or bedsores caused by infrequent turning?
Aging skin is easily broken but difficult to heal. In addition, sores can be a sign of unfailing health or various medical conditions, but if left untreated, open sores can easily develop into an infection leading to more serious health conditions. Any sores need to appear to be cleaned and treated properly.
Do you see unexplained bruising on your loved one?
While it is common for seniors to bruise more easily than younger generations, excessive bruising could be a sign that a caretaker has used too much force. While it could be unintentional force, many bruises can be avoided with proper patient movement techniques, so there are very few valid reasons for bruising in elders caused by a caretaker.
Do you notice alarming weight loss in your loved one?
The slowing metabolism that comes with age or underlying medical conditions can always be an easy explanation for weight loss in the elderly. But is there a chance that the weight loss could be caused by starvation? Before you dismiss the concept of starvation, look around for clues that your elder could be hungry but missing meals.
Is your loved one receiving the medication he or she needs?
Medication is crucial for many elders. Health care facilities should keep records of every medication your loved one receives under their care. There will be a medication chart where all relevant information (including times given) is recorded for each medication your loved one receives. You should never feel like you are being pushy by asking to see the medication chart (as long as your loved one does not object).
Signs and Symptoms of Elder Neglect
Pay diligent attention to the signs and symptoms of elder abuse or neglect if you notice one or more of these signs. If your loved one continues to experience one or more of these symptoms, there could be an underlying reason your loved one is experiencing them.
If you are paying for quality care from a facility or elder care provider, you expect a basic level of care at a minimum. Anything less than a basic level of care is considered neglect or abuse.
Many elders have the same level of needs as children. Would you consider the same level of care and attention for your child? If so, then that level of care could be appropriate for your elderly loved one. If not, then you might want to consider an alternative solution for elder care to ensure that your loved one is being cared for appropriately.
If you suspect your elderly loved one is being subjected to abuse or neglect, you may want to contact an experienced personal injury attorney to understand your options and how to secure the care your elder deserves.