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How to spot nursing home abuse

Abuse of nursing home residents is one of the most undetected and underreported problems in the United States and Georgia. The abuse of at risk adults may be physical, but it is almost always intentional. Anyone who has entrusted an elderly loved one to the care of a nursing home should be aware of the numerous clues of improper treatment.

Abuse can occur if someone intentionally harms or puts a nursing home resident at risk. Abuse can also be the result of neglect if someone withholds essential necessities or care. At-risk adult abuse falls into several categories:

  • Physical abuse that is used to coerce or inflict bodily harm. Physical abuse also includes the deprivation of essential services, such as medical care, food or water.
  • Emotional abuse, where someone uses harassment, insults, intimidation, isolation or threats to cause mental or emotional anguish
  • Sexual abuse involves any kind of non-consensual sexual behavior directed toward an at-risk adult
  • Financial abuse or exploitation, where someone gains access to an at-risk adult's finances and uses them for improper purposes
  • Self-neglect, where an at-risk adult fails to perform essential tasks of self-care and fails to ask for assistance

Clues that abuse has occurred can be derived from watching the at-risk person's behavior or appearance. Any change in the person's behavior or emotional state may suggest underlying abuse. Behaviors such as agitation, apathy, withdrawal, fear or anxiety can also be a sign that abuse is occurring.

Anyone who is concerned about the possibility of the abuse of a loved one may wish to consult a lawyer experienced in nursing home care and special needs planning. Sometimes, a call to the right person will solve the problem. On other occasions, a formal complaint or litigation may be required.

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