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Can you spot the subtle signs of elder abuse?

NewsNursing Home Neglect   October 6, 2017

Sometimes the signs of physical and psychological abuse are right in front of your eyes — but you simply don’t realize what you’re seeing.

Can you spot some of the more subtle signs of abuse among older adults?

  • Sudden changes in the personality of the senior involved that aren’t easily explained by sudden dementia or medication changes.
  • A noticeable reaction of fear or tension when certain caregivers are around compared to others.
  • Anxiety about a specific caregiver, including his or her presence on the night shift or mood that evening.
  • Fear that someone on the staff will find out that the senior has soiled his or her bedding and attempts to hide it.
  • Bruises, scrapes or other signs of injury around the senior’s wrists or ankles (indicating restraints) or mouth (indicating his or her mouth may have been forced open).
  • Broken glasses, dentures or personal items of sentimental value that are damaged or destroyed.
  • An elder’s insistence that he or she fell, causing a bruise, but the details of the accident are inconsistent or unclear.
  • Clothing that is torn, unclean or ill-fitting.
  • Signs that the senior isn’t eating or drinking and has become rapidly malnourished or dehydrated.
  • Self-soothing behaviors, like rocking, muttering, praying or humming.
  • Missing personal items that the senior insists he or she “gave away” (because he or she doesn’t want you to anger the person that took them).

If you suspect that your loved one is being physically or mentally abused because there has been an abrupt change in his or her behavior, the staff brushes off your questions, there’s been no medical evaluation to determine the reason for the changes or you simply have a gut feeling that something is wrong — take him or her for an independent evaluation away from the facility if possible.

Once he or she feels like it is safe to speak, you may find out the information you need. If not, a doctor may be able to determine the reason for the change in behavior and either confirm or relieve your fears.

An attorney can provide more information about what to do if someone you love has been the victim of nursing home abuse.

Source:, “Elder Abuse and Neglect,” accessed Sep. 29, 2017