When you place a loved one in a facility, your goal is to make sure they are well cared for and safe. However, you need to know how to do your part in making sure the facility you choose does keep them safe and well cared for. There are differences between elder abuse, and neglect as well as, many signs you can watch for to prevent your loved one from being harmed. Many elderly patients find it hard to express concerns or feelings, especially if they are afraid to talk about it or it they are not able to speak.
Elder abuse includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, abandonment, financial exploitation, deprivation, and neglect. Neglect of an elderly patient includes hygiene, emotional or social, basic needs, and medical neglect. It can be difficult and overwhelming trying to identify elder abuse or neglect, especially when you are just popping in and out to visit with your loved one. The rest of this article will focus on the types of abuse and neglect, the signs you can watch for, and advice on how to avoid having your loved one abused or neglected while in a care facility.
Neglect is the most common instance of elderly abuse and is also the most overlooked. There are four basic types of elderly neglect, emotional/social, personal hygiene, basic needs, and medical. Neglect of personal hygiene is when a patient is not receiving regular bathing, clothing changes, proper oral cleaning or care, hair cuts when needed, or finger and toenails not trimmed. Emotional/social neglect happens when an elder is left alone, ignored, or abandoned. Neglecting an elderly person’s basic needs is probably the worst of offenses, this involves improper nutrition, hydration, physical care such as bed turning, and general safety such as warm clothing when it’s cold. Medical neglect can occur when a patient’s medications are not given as ordered by a doctor, staff not transporting a patient to doctors appointments, improper wound care, and not providing proper medical equipment such as a wheelchair or walker.
Abuse happens all too often to our elderly loved ones this includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, abandonment, financial exploitation, and deprivation. Physical abuse is probably the easiest to see as it involves pain or injury, which results in marks that can be seen, or the patient requires medical attention that draws doctors attention. Physical abuse also includes the use of restraints, both physical and chemical. Chemical abuse takes place when medications are used to sedate a patient, most commonly by increasing medication doses or mixing medications. Sexual abuse is hard to spot sometimes unless it involves physical force. However, any activity such as fondling, touching, or intercourse, when a patient is unwilling or can’t understand, is qualified as sexual abuse. Emotional abuse includes verbal threats, assaults, intimidation and harassment. Financial exploitation happens when an elder’s income is withheld from them or misused. Deprivation occurs when a patient is refused or denied medical care, medications, therapeutic devices, food, liquids, and shelter.
The signs and symptoms of neglect and abuse can speak for the elder when they are not able to tell someone what is happening. The following is a list of symptoms you can look for, should you notice these signs report them immediately.
Unexplained or too many bruises.
Bedsores (There are four types or degrees.)
Abrasions (Scrapes or scratches).
Broken bones or other unexplained injuries.
Dehydration caused by lack of fluids.
Malnutrition due to improper diet.
Unusual weight loss.
Multiple emergency room visits.
Changes in or poor hygiene (not bathing, changing clothes, or brushing hair)
Changes in social behavior with staff, friends, family, and other patients.
Unusual behavior changes such as becoming withdrawn.
Financial changes that are unexplainable or unexpected.
Hazards (unsafe furniture, bad lighting, tripping hazards, and slippery floors).
Excessive sleepiness, lethargy, drowsiness, or exhaustion.
There are several ways you can help prevent neglect and abuse of your loved one. The first step is to visit often this includes unannounced visits. Communicate regularly with your loved one, the staff, case workers or advocates, and doctors. Report anything that you feel is suspicious or a noticeable physical hazard. Keep updated documentation of medical records, photos, medications, and any other relevant information.