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What should you look for if you suspect an elder is being abused?

Elder abuse occurs more frequently in America than people may believe. Some signs to look for include injuries, poor hygiene and emotional problems.

Entrusting nursing home staff with a loved one's care may be a difficult choice, especially considering the fact that many elderly residents are abused or neglected in nursing homes across the country, including in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, nursing home abuse is more common than people may think. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, up to 10 percent of elderly citizens in the United States have been abused by a caregiver at some point during the past year.

Elder abuse can take many forms, reports the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Each year, thousands of senior citizens suffer physical, emotional, financial or sexual abuse by those they or their family members trust to take care of them. Their mistreatment or neglect can result in injuries, illnesses, medication mistakes or psychological problems.

Possible signs of nursing home neglect or abuse

Sadly, nursing home residents are often vulnerable and may not be able to communicate that they are being harmed. How can family members know that a loved one is being mistreated by caregivers? The following signs may provide a clue that something is not right in the nursing home:

• Bruises, scratches, broken bones or other injuries that cannot be satisfactorily explained

• Injuries or signs of mistreatment around the private areas

• Apparent malnutrition or dehydration

• Sudden behavioral or personality changes, including signs of depression, withdrawal or fear of the caregiver

• Bedsores, hygiene issues or dirty bedding

A nursing home resident may also, of course, tell a family member that mistreatment is occurring. These claims should never be discounted, whether or not the elder is suffering from Alzheimer's disease or dementia. In fact, according to the Journal of Aging Research, patients with Alzheimer's are almost five times more at risk of being victimized than other senior citizens.

Workers at Pennsylvania nursing home arrested after actions caught on camera

An incident that occurred in Haverford may illustrate this point. The children of a 78-year-old dementia patient suspected she was being abused by her caregivers, so they legally installed a hidden camera in her room, reported ABC News. The camera recorded members of the nursing home staff striking her, pulling her ears and humiliating her. Three women were arrested on various charges of assault and endangerment.

Those who have loved ones who were harmed by nursing home caregivers have the right to pursue compensation. A Pennsylvania attorney with experience in nursing home neglect and abuse cases should be able to advise them on the next steps to take.

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