Signs and Symptoms of Neglect

Elder abuse and neglect come in a variety of forms. Physical neglect is generally defined as the negligent failure of any person having custody of an elder or dependent adult to provide medical care for the person's physical and mental needs, to keep the person free from health and safety hazards, and to prevent malnutrition or dehydration. Physical abuse, of course, is defined as the assault or battery of an elder or dependent adult.

To spot signs of neglect or abuse, be aware of the following:

Bed Sores - Sometimes decubitus ulcers (bed or pressure sores) are not preventable, but there is rarely a legitimate excuse for them to grow to a Stage III or IV in size, which is characterized by a significant loss of skin.

Falls/Fractures - Fractures should not occur while an elderly person is under the care of a professional care provider. If you believe your loved one is a fall risk, be sure to advise the caregivers. Proper care-planning should address this risk.

Infections - In this particularly vulnerable group infections must be dealt with as soon as they appear. Any delay in treatment could mean life or death in an elderly person.

Wandering - In people with memory impairment such as Alzheimer's disease or dementia, wandering can lead to serious injury.

Sudden Weight Loss - Any sudden weight loss (or gain) should be investigated as it is a possible sign of a failure to properly nourish a resident or patient, or could be a sign of an underlying disease process not being adequately addressed.

Dehydration - There are many causes of dehydration in an elderly person or dependent adult, very few of them excusable. We all know that our bodies need water to survive, and it's imperative that seniors under professional care are adequately hydrated.

Physical or Sexual Abuse - Unexplained injuries or bruising should be thoroughly investigated. Physical or sexual abuse of any kind can not be tolerated.

Inadequate Supervision - Age-related confusion and dementia, as well as Alzheimer's disease, can case those suffering from these conditions to act out or wander. These individuals need to be monitored closely, and adequate supervision and other protective measures must be taken.

Tube Feeding Failures - Some elderly residents and dependent adults require feedings through a nasogastric or gastrostomy tube. Misplaced tubes can cause serious injury and death, and caregivers are required to check tube placement before all feedings.

Peer-on-Peer Abuse - This is a growing problem in custodial care settings and should be prevented with proper care planning.

Deprivation of Dignity - All elderly persons and dependent adults have a right to live in dignity, whether it is in a nursing home, a residential care facility, or in their own home. Any care provider who is depriving an elderly patient or dependent adult of the right to live in dignity should be reported right away.

Poor Personal Hygiene - Generally unsanitary conditions of the residents or facility should not be tolerated.

Inadequate Staffing - Sufficient staffing is the number one indicator of the quality of care one can expect to receive in a nursing home, and, generally speaking, California nursing homes fall far short on this front.

Medication Errors and Misuse - Pharmaceutical medications can be wonderful aids in healing, but they can also kill and injure.