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Spotting signs of possible nursing home abuse

Aurora County, Illinois, residents trust their elderly loved ones to nursing homes so they can receive necessary care. However, nursing home abuse is always a concern and everyone should be aware of the subtle and even the not-so-subtle signs of elder abuse.

Nursing home abuse usually takes three forms: physical, mental and sexual. Physical abuse relates to violence or force that can lead to injury, impairment or pain. Inappropriately restraining an elder also can be considered physical abuse. Dislocations, broken bones, sprains, abrasions and even pressure marks are signs that an elderly loved one is being physically abused. Residents who have seniors in the care of nursing homes should also be wary of bruises.

To spot mental abuse, family and friends should carefully observe their loved one's behavior. An older adult who is often confused, depressed, agitated, unresponsive or shows fear in the presence of a suspected abuser could be going through a significant amount of abuse. In terms of sexual abuse, family members should be aware of pain or irritation in the private parts of their loved ones, torn clothing, sexually transmitted diseases and difficulty in walking or sitting.

However, loved ones should not only observe the behavior of an elderly resident. Nursing home staff can also give subtle signs that they are abusing their wards. Suspicious behavior such as unexplained injuries and hospitalizations are signs of physical abuse. Going to different medical facilities for such injuries can also be a sign that a nursing home is covering up a pattern of abuse. Signs of possible sexual abuse include forcing a loved one to undress or watch pornographic materials, while mental abuse includes threats, humiliation and isolation.

Aurora Country residents should be aware that the state does have laws to hold such abusive people criminally liable. Consulting with a legal advocate can help determine what steps a resident can take to hold a nursing home or its staff legally responsible.

Source: Jefferson Post, "'It could happen to you'," May 2, 2014

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