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Why can nursing home abuse and neglect be so hard to spot?

When your loved one is in a nursing home, changes in their behavior or a sudden decline in their health can make you nervous. Maybe you see some unusual bruises on their arms or face, or maybe you're concerned that they seem withdrawn and depressed. The administration at the nursing home or the shift nurse assures that everything is fine and dismisses everything you're concerned about as a normal part of aging.

You're not so sure. Frankly, it can be hard to spot the signs of nursing home abuse or neglect before they become severe for a lot of reasons. Chief among them:

  • Many nursing home residents suffer from chronic health issues -- not just "old age." If your loved one's health is fragile, problems with their care can easily be attributed to medical issues.
  • Your loved one may lack the capacity to relay coherent information about their care. If your loved one suffers from dementia or something similar, they may simply not be able to speak up about any mistreatment. If they do, they may not do so clearly enough that you understand what they are trying to say.
  • Victims of abuse can be too afraid to report what's happening. Your loved one relies on the nursing home's staff for 100% of their care. They may be terrified that, should they report the abuse, that they're going to be thrown out on the street or treated even worse the moment that you're gone.

What can you do? Learn more about the signs and symptoms of elder abuse and stay observant. Keep in mind that abuse can be physical, financial, sexual, medical and emotional -- and you cannot rely on the nursing home staff to alert you to a problem if they're the ones causing it.

If your loved one is the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, find out more about your rights. You may need an attorney's assistance to hold the nursing home liable for their actions.

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