Key Signs Your Aging Parent Is Neglected in Their Care Facility

Elder Abuse and Neglect: A Global Problem


According to analyses by the World Health Organization (WHO), elder abuse and neglect are problems that impact countries across the globe. The WHO analyzed nine studies, in six countries, and found that 64.2 percent of elder care staff had perpetrated at least one form of abuse in the year prior to the study. These figures were similar to self-reported estimates of abuse by staff and elderly residents.

Defining Elder Abuse and Neglect


Recognizing elder abuse or neglect can sometimes be challenging, as there is not one universal definition for either term. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers the following definition, which is widely used when discussing elder care issues:
“Elder abuse is an intentional act, or failure to act, by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult (An older adult is defined as someone age 60 or older.)”
Neglect is often considered a form of abuse, as it is a failure for caregivers to take action when care is needed. Researchers Melissa E. Clarke, MD, and Wendell Pierson, MD, offer the following definition of neglect:
“The refusal or failure of a caregiver to fulfill his or her obligations or duties to an older person, including …. providing any food, clothing, medicine, shelter, supervision, and medical care and services that a prudent person would deem essential for the well-being of another.”
- Melissa E. Clarke, MD, and Wendell Pierson, MD

Recognizing the Signs of Abuse and Neglect


Abuse and neglect often unfold simultaneously in aged care facilities, producing a collection of signs that can lead to illness, infection, or even premature death if ignored. The most common signs of abuse and neglect include:

1) Poor personal hygiene.


Poor personal hygiene is considered to be a sign of neglect in elder care facilities. If ignored, poor personal hygiene can lead to further health complications. Body odor, soiled clothing, and dirty skin or hair indicate that a resident’s personal hygiene is likely being neglected by staff.

2) Malnutrition or weight loss.


A steady decline in a resident’s weight may indicate that he or she is not receiving the proper nourishment. Weight loss could also signal the presence of an undiagnosed medical problem, highlighting the possibility that a resident’s health is being neglected by medical staff.

3) Dehydration.


“One of the most frequent and insidious signs of neglectful nursing home care is dehydration. If a nursing home does not have the adequate number of high-quality staff, residents in that home may not receive all of the food or fluids they need to remain hydrated and nutritionally sound. Meals may even be completely missed.”
- Amy Jo Haavisto Kind, Assistant Professor in Geriatrics, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health

Dehydration is one of the most common signs of abuse or neglect among senior citizens in elder care facilities. Signs of dehydration include dry mouth and skin, sluggishness, and dark urine.

4) Untreated bedsores.


If your elder’s mobility is limited and he or she is confined to a bed or wheelchair for most of the day, bedsores can develop. However, they can be minimized or prevented if care providers periodically turn or reposition the patient. If a bedsore does develop, it should be properly treated to minimize discomfort.

5) Fearful or Depressed demeanor.


Behavioral changes are sometimes indicative of abuse or neglect, especially if your loved one expresses fear around a specific staff member. Because changes in affect are not uncommon among aged persons who suffer from mood disorders, monitor your loved one’s behavior carefully, and discuss any changes with both your loved one and their treatment team.

6) Disheveled appearance.


If a resident looks unkempt or disheveled, he or she could be experiencing abuse or neglect. In addition to noting the signs below, look for any changes in the resident’s room condition, as a disorderly room could also be indicative of abuse:

  • Dirty, wrinkled or torn clothing
  • Tangled or unwashed hair
  • Missing socks, shoes, or other articles of clothing

7) Untreated injuries.


While accidents and injuries sometimes occur in aged care facilities, it is the responsibility of the care facility to treat injuries promptly. If you notice that a resident suddenly has exposed wounds, bleeding, or swelling that have not been treated, speak to the facility administrator; more importantly, it may be wise to seek legal guidance immediately.

What Steps Should You Take if You Notice Signs of Neglect?


If you notice any of the signs above in your loved one or another resident, it’s important to respond quickly. Below are three steps to take if you notice signs of neglect or abuse in an elder care facility:

1) Do not ignore the signs.


“Residents of long-term care facilities are vulnerable to abuse (including sexual abuse), neglect, and exploitation by staff, family members, visitors to the facility, or other residents. Elder abuse in a care facility may be a crime, just as it is in someone’s house or apartment. The failure to report abuse that has occurred in a facility also may be a crime.”
 - Lori A. Stiegel, American Bar Association

Taking action is critical to protecting the health and well-being of your parent. Never ignore or dismiss signs of abuse or neglect, as failure to report abuse can even be considered a crime in some circumstances. If you are not sure how to proceed, seek guidance from a professional advocate or elder abuse attorney.

2) Contact your local elder care ombudsman.


“Long-Term Care Ombudsmen are the professionals who advocate on behalf of residents of long-term care facilities and help to resolve complaints about issues of care. They are dedicated to enhancing the lives of long-term care residents through advocacy, education, and resolving resident complaints. The Ombudsman will help you understand the situation, and if a formal complaint is warranted, they can advise you...”
- National Center on Elder Abuse

Your local long-term care ombudsman can provide guidance, support, and advice if you suspect that your parent is being abused or neglected. They can also help educate you about long-term care issues and complaint resolution, and refer you to local resources that can help protect victims of suspected abuse or neglect.

3) Speak with a trusted elder care abuse attorney.


The single best step you can take to address suspected neglect or abuse is to seek the expertise of an attorney who specializes in elder neglect and abuse. The legal professionals at Dolman Law Group are available to review your case. Elder abuse is a serious crime, and we must work together to ensure those responsible or held accountable for their actions. Contact us at (727) 451-6900 or online to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our attorneys, and learn what we can do to ensure your loved one is protected.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900

https://www.dolmanlaw.com/legal-services/nursing-home-abuse-attorneys/

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