Many seniors across the nation are being abused by people who are responsible for their care. Because elders are physically frail, they are less able to stand up to physical abuse. They may not see or hear as well or may not think as clearly making them vulnerable to unscrupulous behavior by caregivers. Elder abuse can take many forms such as physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect or abandonment by caregivers, financial exploitation and healthcare fraud and abuse. If your loved one is in a nursing home or care facility and you suspect that he or she is at risk from neglect or other abuse, learning how to spot the warning signs of nursing home neglect and abuse can help you decide if you need to report an issue.
Signs and symptoms of physical or sexual abuse may include unexplained injuries or an unwillingness of a caregiver to allow you to see an elder alone. If you observe a caregiver acting in a threatening, belittling or controlling manner or your family member is uncharacteristically withdrawn, these could be indications of emotional abuse. Neglect by caregivers might include weight loss or malnutrition, a decline in hygiene, untreated ailments or unsafe conditions in the facility.
Financial exploitation and healthcare fraud and abuse are similar in the fact that your family member is being ripped off. Financial exploitation might include significant withdraws from an elder’s accounts, payment for unnecessary goods or services and changes to financial documents such as additions of names to signature cards, policies or power of attorney. Duplicate billings, over or under medication, inadequate care or poorly trained staff are all possible signs of healthcare fraud and abuse.
If you see an older adult being abused or neglected, don’t hesitate to report the situation. Don’t assume that someone else will take care of it or that the person being abused is capable of getting help if he or she really needs it. The fact is that many seniors don’t report abuse. Some fear retaliation from the abuser, while others believe that if they turn in their abusers, no one else will take care of them. Because elders are among the most vulnerable citizens, they need our help to keep them safe.
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