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Mentally Disabled Nursing Home Residents Are Most Vulnerable To Physical Abuse

In 2009, the News & Observer covered the story of an 88-year-old woman who was a resident at Sunnybrook Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Raleigh, North Carolina. One day, however, Della Jarrett’s daughter discovered that her mother was covered in unexplained bruises. Unfortunately, Della suffered from dementia and couldn’t share what was surely a tragic story of physical abuse. While her daughter was sure that her mother, who had very limited mobility, could not have received her injuries in a fall, it was impossible to know what happened to her mother or who had perpetrated the abuse.

This is precisely the reason that many elderly nursing home residents are such easy victims: physically, they are unable to defend themselves. Mentally, they are often unable to remember abuse or report abuse. While a frustrated, overworked, or simply cruel adult care staff member would probably not risk harming a cognizant patient who could easily tell others about the abuse, those who can’t stand up for themselves or communicate with others are easy victims. Even if the bruises are there, it can be difficult to find hard evidence proving malicious physical abuse.

How can you protect your mentally disabled elderly loved one from nursing home abuse?

•    Drop in to see your elderly loved one often. The more often you see your loved one, the more likely you are to notice changes – both physical and mental. In addition, stopping by often sends a clear message to the nursing home staff: that someone cares about this patient and will be watching for signs of poor care. If you live far away from your loved one, see if you can’t locate someone in the area to visit in your place.
•    Consider a “Granny Cam.” If you see signs of abuse, such as bruising, but can’t prove abuse, a small hidden camera could help you secure evidence to move forward with your case and get justice for your loved one. Even though your loved one can’t speak, sometimes, camera footage can tell the whole story.
•    Report your concerns. At some point, even if you lack direct evidence, it might be wise to simply report your suspicions to authorities. It may be that other relatives at the same home have voiced a concern – and your suspicions could launch a more formal investigation.