During the new year, many families will be visiting their loved ones in a nursing home or another assisted care facility. That makes it a good time of year to revisit the signs of abuse and neglect that families can watch for during their visits. This can be difficult, especially when the patient has trouble communicating or has a diagnosis of a mental illness. Unfortunately, some of these symptoms are very similar to symptoms of dementia; indeed, signs of abuse may be passed off by staffers as the onset of dementia. You may need to take further steps to know whether your loved one is truly being abused. The following tips are compiled from sources including the Mayo Clinic and the Rotary Club:
Signs from the patient:
• Unexplained weight loss and dehydration • Unexplained injuries, especially injuries that aren’t related to any existing medical condition • Bed sores • Denying obvious injuries or giving unlikely explanations for them • Dementia-like or childlike behaviors, like rocking back and forth • Confusion from a mentally competent person • Torn or bloody clothes • Dirty clothes and bedding • An increase in symptoms once controlled by medication • More medication left in the prescription than there should be, or new medications you don’t remember a doctor ordering • Seeming fear at the idea of ending the visit • Depression and withdrawn behavior • Missing jewelry or other objects of value • Sudden changes in financial situation
Signs from the nursing home’s staff:
• Reluctance to allow visitors • Reluctance to leave visitors alone with the patient • Speaking for a competent patient • Explanations that don’t fit with what you know about the patient • Seeming tension between staff and patients • Overworked or under-trained staff • Controlling or overly affectionate behavior by the staff • Unexplained changes in bills
• Duplicate bills • Too much concern about the patient’s finances • Displaying more wealth than they seem likely to have
If you suspect abuse, exploitation or neglect at a nursing home, the best thing you can do is report it. The Illinois Department of Public Health is responsible for investigating complaints at nursing homes; it maintains a 24-hour Nursing Home Hotline at 1-800-252-4343. If you’re sure of neglect or abuse, you should also consider pulling your loved one out of the home as soon as you can arrange it. And if your loved one was financially exploited, seriously hurt or killed by abusive behavior, you also have the right to file an Illinois nursing home abuse lawsuit. To learn more about your family’s legal rights, please contact us at (312) 475-9596 or through our Web site.