Because you love and respect your parents, you do everything in your power to provide for their safety and comfort as they age. Often, this includes finding them a safe and clean nursing home facility when their physical and mental needs exceed what can be provided in their own home. No matter how carefully you screen the facility, however, it's impossible to prevent all problems. Recent reports from major news outlets highlight how shockingly prevalent sexual abuse is in nursing homes.
It can be hard for facilities that don't offer competitive pay (many nursing homes offer near-minimum wage positions) to screen out all potential problems when it comes to staff. As a result, predators who have terrible intentions may end up working in close contact with elderly adults in vulnerable positions. If your loved one has made statements that concern you about staff behavior, you should speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
Look for early signs of sexual abuse
Often, predators who choose to work with vulnerable populations will pick the most defenseless as victims. This may mean people who can't speak, precluding them from easily reporting the abuse. It may also mean that they prey on those with dementia, vision loss or even those who take powerful medications for sleep assistance or pain relief. If one of your parents fits any of those highly vulnerable categories, you should be particularly vigilant when visiting. There are certain signs that may indicate that something abusive is happening.
Abuse isn't always as obvious as visible bruising. If your loved one is more withdrawn socially, verbally or emotionally without reason, you should wonder why. If he or she suddenly recoils from touches, wears extra layers of clothing, or acts nervous around particular members of staff, take note. If you have private time with your loved one, ask him or her if something bad is happening to them. While no one wants to think it could happen to them or someone they love, you need to be prepared to help your victimized, vulnerable loved one.
An attorney can help you if you suspect abuse
Proving elder abuse of a vulnerable adult can be difficult. An attorney with experience in cases that involve injury, neglect or medical malpractice will understand the kind of proof and documentation necessary to legally hold the abuser or facility responsible. Your attorney may also be able to help you with the complex process of having your loved one moved to a new, safer space if you suspect abuse. Your loved one shouldn't go through this alone, and neither should you. An attorney can help you continue to do the best you can for your elderly loved one.