Protect your loved one by watching for elder abuse

The decision to put an aging loved one, such as a parent, into an assisted living or nursing home facility is a difficult one. After all, you want to do the best you can by your loved one, and chances are that he or she would prefer to live at home for as long as possible. No matter how strong-willed someone is, however, there comes a point when around-the-clock care and monitoring become medically necessary. Perhaps your loved one has been diagnosed with a condition that causes dementia, like Alzheimer's disease. If you are not able to stay home to provide care 24/7, a facility is the best choice.

When selecting a nursing home or assisted living facility, you should always research carefully. Talk to people who have placed loved ones in the facility previously. Look at reviews and search for previous legal issues in the news online. It's important to remember that a facility is only as good as the staff, and staff changes regularly at these kinds of places with some regularity.

All it takes is one bad apple with no criminal record getting hired to put your loved one at risk for serious neglect and abuse. You owe it to your loved one to watch for the most obvious signs of abuse and fight back if you see them. Even if your loved one is dependent on staff for daily needs, he or she still has human rights.

Nursing home abuse takes a number of forms

People in nursing homes and assisted living facilities may be particularly vulnerable to abuse, like young children. Those with deteriorating mental faculties may not be able to speak out on in their own defense. Others may not be able to convince family members about what is happening. Sometimes, abuse is physical, involving pushing, slapping or even hair pulling. Other times, it is verbal and emotional, with staff screaming at, harassing or berating those in their care. Sexual abuse of vulnerable elders happens as well, as does financial abuse. Workers could steal from your loved one, forge checks or even try to convince someone to leave assets for them in last wills.

You should always listen and believe a loved one who complains of abuse. Other than a verbal statement from the victim, you should also look out for:

- Sudden changes in mood, appearance or behavior

- Staff who won't leave you alone with your loved one

- Bruises, cuts or other injuries

- A new aversion to being touched

- Signs of traumatic shock, such as startling easily

- Rapid weight loss

- Unkempt appearance, dirty clothing and unbrushed hair

- Bed sores

While there could be reasonable explanations for some of these issues, it's better to look into it and feel overzealous than to brush it off and realize later that you could have prevented the suffering of someone you love.

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