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Is your loved one being threatened in a nursing home?

Going to live in a nursing home can be a scary time in anyone's life, whether the choice was theirs or something family members wanted them to do. The fear stems from many things, one of which is the loss of independence. It goes further than not being able to drive places and cook your own meals because, often, it means acknowledging mental and physical frailties, or the possibility they will occur soon.

It is also overwhelming to be at the mercy of nursing home staffers. For example, some staffers may threaten residents they see as being difficult with eviction - when all the residents are doing is advocating for themselves.

Pay attention when you visit

When you visit loved ones in the nursing home (or email or call), pay attention to what they say. If they make comments such as, "After I told the aide that she was late all week for my medication and that I wanted to talk to her supervisor about it, she told me to be quiet or she'd hurt me," take action as soon as possible. Avoid dismissing these incidents as anomalies or one-time occurrences. Talk with managers or even a lawyer.

It is also worth pointing out that threats and abuse can come from other residents. Perhaps they have dementia or are finding it difficult to adjust to the nursing home. Whatever the case, it is important that you advocate for your loved one's dignity.

Watch for physical symptoms

Many threats are solely emotional, but some have a physical component as well. A staffer may bruise a resident to make a point or underfeed the resident, leading to abuse symptoms such as weight loss and fatigue. Another resident, knowing he or she does not have much supervision, may trip your loved one, causing a broken bone.

Rape is also a problem at some nursing homes, and more facts about its prevalence are coming to light. It is critical to speak up early in suspected cases so a qualified individual can investigate them as thoroughly as possible.

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