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Remaining Vigilant: Reporting Signs of Elder Abuse at Long-Term Care Facilities

Elderly man with folded hands hiding his face

Remaining Vigilant: Reporting Signs of Elder Abuse at Long-Term Care Facilities

Every year on June 15, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) provides an opportunity for all of us to promote dialogue and action on the issue of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

We at the RI State Long-Term Care Ombudsman’s office are always working to prevent abuse and neglect in our nursing homes and assisted living facilities throughout the state. One important way to do that is by educating our long-term care residents, families, caregivers, and the public as to what constitutes quality care, and what the signs of abuse and neglect might look like in a nursing facility.

Signs of Quality Care at a Long-Term Care Facility

  • Clean and Comfortable Environment: The facility is clean, clutter-free, smells fresh, and maintains a comfortable temperature.
  • Responsive Assistance: Calls for help are answered quickly and kindly.
  • Well-Groomed Residents: Residents are well-groomed, clean, comfortable, alert, happy, and without restraints.
  • Appealing Food: Meals look and smell appetizing.
  • Resident Involvement: Staff encourages resident participation in their care and daily life, allowing them to make choices such as when to wake up.
  • Meaningful Activities: Residents are engaged in meaningful activities, both individually and as a group.
  • Warm Community: The community is engaging, with staff knowing residents and communicating respectfully.

Warning Signs of Elder Abuse

Indicators of Physical Abuse:

  • Unexplained bruises, cuts, burns, or sores.
  • Sudden weight loss or dehydration.
  • Poor hygiene or unusual smells.
  • Untreated medical conditions.

Emotional and Behavioral Changes:

  • Withdrawal from normal activities or social interactions.
  • Unusual changes in mood, such as increased agitation or depression.
  • Fearfulness or anxiety, especially around certain individuals.

Indicators of Neglect:

  • Unsanitary living conditions (soiled bedding, dirty living spaces).
  • Inadequate clothing or covering for weather conditions.
  • Lack of necessary medical aids (glasses, hearing aids, walkers).

Indicators of Financial Abuse:

  • Unexplained financial transactions or changes in financial status.
  • Missing personal belongings or valuables.
  • Sudden changes in wills or power of attorney.

Concerning Caregiver Behavior:

  • Overly controlling or aggressive behavior by caregivers.
  • Reluctance to allow private conversations with the resident.
  • Lack of responsiveness to resident needs.

How to File a Report of Suspected Elder Abuse:

  • Work with the Resident or Family Council to address concerns as a group.
  • Become familiar with residents’ rights and facility requirements.
  • Document your concerns.
  • Share concerns with the Administration of the facility. Provide specific examples.
  • Share concerns with the ombudsman.
  • Visit frequently, vary the time of your visits, and take notes of any issues you identify.
  • Review state survey reports to see if the facility has been cited for similar issues before.

Remember: Our Ombudsmen are always available to assist residents by investigating and helping to resolve any concerns that may arise, and by promoting resident dignity, choice, and self-determination in all aspects of life and care.

Regular visits at a facility help spot changes and ensure proper care. Encouraging residents to talk about their care and any concerns they may have is also crucial to pick up on instances of neglect or abuse.

If you suspect a resident at a long-term care facility in Rhode Island is experiencing neglect or abuse in some form, contact our team here.

By staying vigilant and informed, you can play a crucial role in preventing elder abuse and ensuring quality care for your loved ones.

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