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What is the difference between nursing home abuse and neglect?

Would you know if your elderly family member was being abused in their nursing home? You might think that you would, especially if they appeared bruised or had other suspicious injuries.

But what about neglect? Could you identify signs of nursing home neglect?

While patient neglect is a form of abuse, the signs of neglect may be far more subtle. Often, a resident's poor hygiene may be a tip-off that all is not well at their nursing home. If you visit your loved one and notice that they smell of urine or feces, they are not getting the level of care that they need.

Of course, incontinent patients have accidents with bowels and bladder all the time, and one incident does not necessarily mean they are being neglected. But if they have to continue to wear a soiled or sodden adult diaper for extended periods, it's a real problem.

A decline in mobility may be another sign that a resident is not receiving the care that they need. Bed-bound residents and those who spend hours sitting in chairs can develop bedsores. But another sign that the individual may be neglected is that their muscles begin to atrophy from lack of use. Even someone who can no longer walk unassisted should be encouraged to move their limbs in gentle exercises.

Psychological neglect is another problem. Dementia and stroke patients may lose the ability to communicate verbally. However, staff should still be interacting with them and encouraging them to communicate needs and pain in whatever ways that they may still be able. Simply treating them as if they can't hear or express themselves can be very damaging to them psychologically.

If you suspect nursing home neglect, speak up and advocate for your loved one's needs.

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