If you have a loved one living in a nursing home or other assisted living facility in the Houston area, it is important to know the signs of elder abuse and neglect. While most elder abuse is perpetrated by loved ones, the abuse that occurs in a facility that is supposed to be taking care of your loved one can be particularly bad.
What counts as abuse?
While some abuse is obvious — like physical abuse that causes bodily injury — other abuse is not as easy to spot. Some victims don’t even realize they are being abused. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the following are the most common forms of elder abuse:
Physical Abuse: the intentional use of physical force that results in acute or chronic illness, bodily injury, physical pain, functional impairment, distress, or death. Physical abuse may include, but is not limited to, violent acts such as striking (with or without an object or weapon), hitting, beating, scratching, biting, choking, suffocation, pushing, shoving, shaking, slapping, kicking, stomping, pinching, and burning.
Sexual Abuse or Abusive Sexual Contact: forced or unwanted sexual interaction (touching and non-touching acts) of any kind with an older adult. This may include forced or unwanted:
- Completed or attempted contact between the penis and the vulva or the penis and the anus involving penetration
- Contact between the mouth and the penis, vulva, or anus
- Penetration of the anal or genital opening of another person by a hand, finger, or other objects
- Intentional touching, either directly or through the clothing, of the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks
These acts also qualify as sexual abuse if they are committed against a person who is not competent to give informed approval.
Emotional or Psychological Abuse: verbal or nonverbal behavior that results in the infliction of anguish, mental pain, fear, or distress. Examples include behaviors intended to humiliate (e.g., calling names or insults), threaten (e.g., expressing an intent to initiate nursing home placement), isolate (e.g., seclusion from family or friends), or control (e.g., prohibiting or limiting access to transportation, telephone, money or other resources).
Neglect: failure by a caregiver or other responsible person to protect an elder from harm, or the failure to meet needs for essential medical care, nutrition, hydration, hygiene, clothing, basic activities of daily living or shelter, which results in serious risk of compromised health and safety. Examples include not providing adequate nutrition, hygiene, clothing, shelter, or access to necessary health care; or failure to prevent exposure to unsafe activities and environments.
Financial Abuse or Exploitation: the illegal, unauthorized, or improper use of an older individual’s resources by a caregiver or other person in a trusting relationship, for the benefit of someone other than the older individual. This includes depriving an older person of rightful access to, information about, or use of, personal benefits, resources, belongings, or assets. Examples include forgery, misuse or theft of money or possessions; use of coercion or deception to surrender finances or property; or improper use of guardianship or power of attorney.
Signs of Abuse
If you don’t catch an abuser in the act, how can you tell your loved one has been abused? You can obviously ask your loved one if something is wrong, but as we mentioned above, some victims don’t realize they are being abused. Others are embarrassed or afraid to speak up. So, the best thing to do is look for signs of abuse, and then investigate your suspicions.
Physical Signs of Abuse: Perhaps the easiest signs of abuse to spot are signs of physical abuse. Look for bruises and scrapes, torn or bloody clothes, and fear of normal physical contact.
Signs of Neglect: Uncleanliness, weight loss, and bed sores are the top indicators of neglect. These can also be signs of physical abuse.
Behavioral Changes: If your loved one suddenly starts acting differently, you should talk to them, the staff at the facility they are in, and their primary care provider. Since behavioral changes can also be a sign of a medical issue, it is an important indicator to act upon.
Financial Trouble: If your loved one is suddenly spending a lot of money, they may have been coerced or encouraged to do so by someone else. If cash, credit cards, or checkbooks go missing, don’t assume your loved one has simply forgotten where they are. If your loved one is being secretive or is suspicious of your meddling, you may also want to take a closer look at what is driving that behavior.
Trust Your Gut: If you feel like something is wrong, don’t dismiss your concerns. You know your loved ones better than anyone else. You should trust yourself to know when something bad is happening to them.
If you believe your loved one is being abused or neglected by the facility they are living in, or by one of the people who work there, don’t hesitate to contact the Texas Department of Health and Human Services’ abuse hotline at 800-458-9858.
You may also want to reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney. Our firm has helped many families bring lawsuits against facilities and individuals that were abusing their loved ones.