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Spot the warning signs of elder abuse and neglect

For many families, the decision to entrust an elderly or disabled loved one to the professionals at a nursing or care facility can be incredibly difficult. You expect nurses, physicians and other care providers to be attentive, professional and to ultimately provide your loved one with assistance they need in a respectful, dignified manner.

However, in some cases, care providers fail in their duties. Negligence, as well as verbal, emotional and physical abuse are all potential concerns for patients as well as their families. It's important for family and loved ones to be vigilant and to know how to identify the warning signs of abuse and neglect.

What to look for when identifying nursing home abuse

You know your loved one. You know his or her behavior and personality. Although things may change as he or she adjusts to life in a care facility, it's important to look out for the following signs that he or she is not receiving appropriate care and attention:

  • Is there a foul odor in the building or room?
  • Is the bed linen fresh and clean?
  • Is your loved one wearing the same gown or clothing he or she had on yesterday?
  • Has his or her hair been recently combed?
  • Are there any bruises or sores?
  • What is the condition of the feet and hands? Have nails been manicured? Are the feet cracked and dry?
  • Are you being notified when there are prescription changes?
  • Does it seem like your loved one is receiving the medication he or she is supposed to take?
  • Does your loved one seem to be sleepy all the time (a potential sign of over-medication)?
  • If you make a request in regard to your loved one, is the request tended to on a timely basis, or do you have to escalate issues to administration to get things done?
  • Does your loved one appear to be comfortable with the attending staff, or does he or she seem fearful or intimidated?
  • Do the attendants appear to be knowledgeable about the needs of the patients?
  • Are you aware of others switching their loved ones to a different nursing or care facility?
  • Has your loved one lost a significant amount of weight (signs of malnutrition)?

If you suspect that your loved one is not receiving the care he or she deserves, change your visitation schedule. Make surprise visits at different times so you can view the staff when they are not expecting you.

If you notice signs of abuse, you can contact an attorney for guidance on how to proceed. You shouldn't feel guilty or blame yourself. By speaking out, you can hold negligent parties accountable and potentially protect other residents from similar mistreatment, abuse or neglect.

If your loved one is in a nursing home in the Chicago area, and you realize you need a lawyer, know that Seidman Margulis & Fairman, LLP, can help with resolving cases of nursing home abuse.

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