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Warning Signs Of Elder Abuse In Nursing Homes And Assisted Living

One of the hardest things to do is to place an elderly loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility because of declining mental or physical health. Not only is there grief about the individual's health and the family's inability to keep him or her at home anymore, but also concern about the possibility of negligent care, mistreatment or abuse in institutionalized care.

Florida, of course, has seniors as a high proportion of its population, so keeping elders safe in the Sunshine State is a formidable public responsibility. According to the state Department of Elder Affairs:

  • At 24 percent, Florida ranks first among states in the percentage of people who are elders.
  • More than 4.8 million Floridians are at least age 60.
  • More than 1.7 million Floridians are at least age 75.

The National Center on Elder Abuse or NCEA, affiliated with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or HHS, provides more statistics that shed light on the situation:

  • Two-thirds of long-term care facility residents are women.
  • Almost one-third of nursing homes received citations for federal safety violations and almost one-tenth of those violations caused resident harm or serious injury, or risk of death.
  • Shockingly, more than half of nursing home staff admitted to mistreatment of patients, mostly involving neglect.
  • Another study of 2,000 nursing home resident interviews found that almost half reported having been abused and 95 percent having been neglected or observed another resident being neglected.

These numbers instill no confidence in family members with loved ones in nursing homes about the quality of care. Elder abuse falls into these categories:

  • Physical such as assault, battery or improper restraint
  • Sexual, including rape, sexual assault, exposure to pornography and unwanted touching, especially when the victim is not competent to consent
  • Psychological, meaning infliction of mental anguish through any behavior, including isolation, humiliation and harassment
  • Financial such as illegal confiscation of an elder's money, personal property or other assets; use of the elder's identity and signature for fraudulent gain; or improper influence on an older person to get him or her to sign legal documents that give power or property to another
  • Neglect, meaning intentional or negligent withholding of care for an elder's basic needs

Family members and friends of institutionalized elderly patients should remain vigilant in watching for signs and symptoms that could suggest abuse or neglect is occurring. Of course, if the elder is able to converse, keep an open dialog about the standard of care and any improper incidents. Always keep an eye out for:

  • Unexplained bruises, rashes, bleeding, pain, scratches, burns, broken bones and other injuries
  • Trouble walking
  • Inability to find a comfortable sitting position
  • Sudden display of inappropriate behavior
  • Emotional withdrawal
  • Fatigue or changes in sleep patterns
  • Display of fear in response to a certain person
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression or crying
  • Agitation or anger
  • Confusion
  • Rocking
  • Unusual bank account activity
  • Missing property
  • Bedsores
  • Dehydration or malnutrition
  • Dirty clothing and linens
  • Unsanitary conditions
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Loss of appetite

Any Floridian who suspects nursing home negligence or abuse of a loved one should seek legal counsel for help with investigation of the matter as well as advice about potential legal remedies.

With offices in Panama City, Marianna and Tallahassee, the lawyers at Perry & Young, P.A., represent clients in nursing home negligence, other kinds of personal injury and wrongful death cases.