When you are unable to provide the level of care that an aging loved one requires, admitting him or her to a nursing home may be the only option. Although nursing homes exist to keep elderly people healthy and safe, elder abuse is a distressingly common occurrence in such facilities, affecting an estimated one in six older adults living in community settings on an annual basis.

Doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals are required by law to report any cases of suspected abuse. However, the signs of abuse can be subtle, and providers may not recognize them right away. Elderly victims of abuse may be unwilling to report it themselves due to a fear of retaliation or unable to report it due to cognitive dysfunction.

As someone who is familiar with an elderly loved one, it may fall to you to report possible abuse if you notice signs that are out of the ordinary.

Forms of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse can take many forms. Physical abuse, which may include sexual abuse, is often the easiest to recognize because it may cause unusual injuries, such as unexplained bruises or broken bones. Neglect is considered a form of abuse and can also leave physical evidence, such as bedsores or signs of malnutrition.

However, some forms of elder abuse can be more subtle, leaving no concrete physical evidence. Abuse can be emotional or psychological in nature. If so, the victim will bear no physical marks or scars but may exhibit behavioral changes. For example, the victim may become remote or withdrawn, angry, or resentful. He or she may show symptoms of anxiety or depression and may refuse to eat or perform other essential self-care tasks.

Signs of abuse can be difficult to recognize because they are often similar to symptoms of age-related degenerative conditions. However, any physical symptom or behavioral sign that causes you concern should be taken seriously.

Actions to Take

Adult Protective Services are available in all 50 states. Each has a long-term care ombudsman, i.e., a government official who is responsible for advocating for residents’ rights and resolving complaints related to the quality of care. Though you may wish to talk to nursing home supervisors or administrators first, it is always appropriate to get in touch with your state’s ombudsman.

By law, nursing home facilities must post the ombudsman’s name and phone number in a place where you can see it. However, if for some reason you cannot find it, you should also be able to find the information online.

Your loved one’s safety is paramount. It may sometimes be necessary to remove him or her from the facility or call 911 if there is an imminent threat. We know you want justice for your loved one, and we want to help. Contact a nursing home abuse lawyer today.