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Pay attention to these 7 warning signs of nursing home abuse and neglect

Nursing homes are supposed to be safe places where the most vulnerable among us can receive the care and quality of life they deserve. Unfortunately, issues such as understaffing, overcrowding, poor training and negligent hiring can make a nursing home stay a nightmare.

Far too many elders become victims of abuse or neglect in the very facilities designed to care for them. In fact, according to one study, approximately one out of every three nursing homes nationwide has been cited for abuse or neglect. The victims of such mistreatment have a 300 percent higher risk of death.

Don't let your loved one become a statistic

So how do you make sure your loved one doesn't become a statistic?

Victims frequently suffer from Alzheimer's, dementia or other cognitive impairments that make it difficult for them to speak up. As a result, it's often up to the family members to look out for their elderly loved one's interests. The first step is to choose the right facility - one that is properly credentialed, reputable and professional.

Once your loved one is residing at the facility, it's important to stay in touch. Only through regular contact can you keep an eye out for warning signs of abuse or neglect.

Specifically, watch for:

  1. Bed sores: These sores are almost always preventable through frequent repositioning and proper care. Left untreated, they can quickly spiral out of control, leading to life-threatening complications.
  2. Frequent falls: Nursing homes and other care facilities must have protocols in place for fall-risk patients. If your loved one has fallen, chances are the facility hasn't been following those protocols - and perhaps hasn't been adequately monitoring your loved one.
  3. Unexplained bruises or other injuries: Sadly, physical abuse does happen in nursing homes. It can be perpetrated by staff members or even other residents. It may go overlooked until the physical symptoms become unmistakable.
  4. Poor hygiene: Nursing home staff members have a responsibility to provide for your loved one's daily needs. Lack of hygiene can indicate neglect.
  5. Rapid, unexplained weight loss: Malnutrition (and dehydration) can be serious consequences of neglect in nursing homes.
  6. Change in your loved one's temperament: Victims of abuse often become withdrawn and socially isolated. They may also be agitated, acting out in ways that are unlike them.
  7. Lack of transparency: If you feel like you're always given the brush-off - or your questions and concerns go ignored - that's a big red flag. Likewise, if you repeatedly face roadblocks when you try to visit your loved one, that's a cause for concern.

Hopefully, your loved one will never have to live through the horror of mistreatment in a professional care facility. By staying vigilant on their behalf, you can play a role in protecting their well-being.

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