Home Health & Wellness Protecting Our Elders: How to Recognise and Prevent Nursing Home Abuse

Protecting Our Elders: How to Recognise and Prevent Nursing Home Abuse

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We all age differently. Some people, post-retirement, opt to live the rest of their days at home. Others become “snowbirds”, migrating to a new city to lounge in their Golden Years. But others find they need more care than they or their family can handle. In these cases, our loved ones turn their attention to nursing homes. Often they choose to stay local to Chicago to remain near family and friends or partake in activities they enjoy.

But there is a hidden pandemic in Chicago, and throughout the US. A pandemic that strikes at one of our most vulnerable demographics. When entrusting your loved one to a nursing home, it’s important to know about the fight against nursing home abuse.

Understanding nursing home abuse

Nursing Home Abuse is a failing within nursing homes across the US that can spring from either maliciousness or poor management practices. Nursing home abuse is the mistreatment or neglect of an elderly person by their caregivers within a nursing home, be they nursing staff, doctors, or management. Below, we’ll outline the forms of abuse, some signs to watch for, and how it can affect your loved one.

Types of abuse

  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Financial abuse
  • Neglect
  • Medical abuse

Signs of Abuse

  • Unexplained injuries
  • New STIs
  • Change in behaviour
  • Unexplained financial trouble 
  • Bed sores or infections
  • Unexpected death
  • Preventable falls
  • Broken bones or fractures
  • Malnourishment or dehydration
  • Sepsis
  • Poor hygiene

Effects of abuse

  • Mental and physical trauma
  • Increased medical needs and expenses
  • Anxiety or Depression
  • Isolation
  • Increased memory problems
  • Low self-esteem
  • Death

Chronic issues plaguing our nursing homes that may lead to abuse

While nothing justifies the abuse of our elders, recognising the problems that can lead to said abuse helps us learn to prevent it. While some people are malicious and migrate to nursing home positions to be in a place of power, systemic issues also increase the risk of neglect or abuse of residents.

When a nursing home isn’t being appropriately run, you run into exhausted, overwhelmed, underpaid, and/or bitter staff members doing their best to stay afloat. Without proper documentation and accountability, it’s no small wonder that things get missed with individual residents.

Preventing nursing home abuse

Many organisations across the US and nursing neglect lawyers within Chicago are pushing for more regulation when it comes to elderly abuse and holding nursing homes accountable. Currently, Adult Protective Services investigates criminal abuse, but only if the case meets specific criteria. To seek justice for your loved one, your best bet is to seek help from these organisations and lawyers.

You can also help prevent elderly abuse in nursing homes, or at least help protect your loved one.

When vetting nursing homes, ask about their requirements for staff regarding education and training. Check their documentation practices, and ensure they’ll inform you of your elder’s care and condition. After your loved one is admitted, keep careful watch of them. Visit or call often and check in, talk with staff about their situation, and keep an eye on their mental clarity and financials.

Another helpful step is to actually befriend the staff. Ask after their well-being and make sure they aren’t being exploited or run ragged. Advocate for them to management (without dropping names), and try to help improve their workspace. By keeping active in your loved one’s well-being, you’ll discourage the malicious workers; by advocating for the staff, you’ll encourage them and promote change that will benefit residents and staff and mitigate the risk of neglect.

Seek Help immediately if you suspect abuse

If you have any reason to suspect elder abuse in a nursing home, don’t wait. All residents, including your loved one, could be at risk of severe consequences, even death. Dangerous conditions like sepsis can arise from neglectful conditions; the earlier you seek help, the more likely you are to save lives.

First, contact a reputable personal injury lawyer in Chicago with experience in nursing home abuse. First, they will evaluate your case and determine if you have a strong enough basis to move forward or help you collect more evidence. Additionally, these attorneys are well-versed in their city’s legal practices and will have connections to other organizations where you can report the abuse.

These organisations, including potentially APS, will handle criminal investigations. Meanwhile, your lawyer will help you pursue a civil case to obtain compensation to help cover any expenses resulting from the abuse, from medical costs and therapy to funeral costs in the case of wrongful death.


Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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