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Misidentifying Aging & Nursing Home Neglect

September 15, 2016

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

Nobody wants to believe that their loved one is being mistreated or neglected by nursing home staff. Because we tend to trust these facilities and their staff members, the common signs of elder neglect are often disregarded by family members who misidentify them as symptoms of aging. If you have a loved one who resides in a nursing home, it is crucial to know the signs of nursing home neglect and to be able to differentiate signs of abuse from signs of aging.

Inability to Communicate Effectively

Our loved ones may not be able to accurately express to us that they are being neglected or abused. They may suffer from a mental illness that keeps them from understanding what is happening to them or being able to put the right words together, or they may feel too embarrassed to tell us what is going on. Regardless, we have to keep our eyes and our minds open when we see these common signs, and ask questions, because nursing home abuse and neglect is a real problem.

Misidentified Signs of Elder Abuse and Neglect

With that said, the following list includes common elderly abuse and neglect symptoms that have been sadly misidentified as simply part of the aging process:

  1. Dehydration – Dehydration can be fatal for elderly patients; therefore, it should never be regarded lightly. However, many seniors struggle with dehydration. It can be a side effect of medications or medical issues, or an elderly person may just refuse to drink the fluids they are offered. If your loved one is dehydrated and refuses to drink fluids, this could be due to multiple factors, one of which may be nursing home neglect.
  2. Weight Loss – As elderly people continue to age, they often lose weight, especially if they are suffering from an illness or disease. Then again, if an elderly person is being abused or neglected, they could suddenly start to lose weight, so it is vital to pay attention to how fast they are losing weight and why it is happening.
  3. Decrease of Social Skills – If an elderly person is being neglected, they may not have the wonderful experience of interaction with staff members that is vital for their well-being. In fact, neglect often comes in the form of being ignored.
  4. Changes in Behavior – Neglect and abuse can cause people to shift dramatically from one type of “normal” behavior to other types of uncharacteristic behaviors. However, there are types of diseases that will also do the same thing, such as Alzheimer’s. Additionally, if your loved one is getting sicker with an illness, this can cause shifts in behaviors, as well. As such, you have to take the total well-being and the type of person your loved one is into account when assessing their behavioral changes.

Ultimately, trust your instinct if you believe that your loved one is being neglected or abused. If you have a loved one who has been neglected or abused at a nursing home facility, you should talk to a Philadelphia nursing home abuse lawyer. Contact van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim for a free consultation about your case.


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