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Sudden changes could indicate that abuse is taking place

People often worry that they won't know if a loved one is being abused in a nursing home. After all, even if you visit for a few hours every day -- far more than many people visit -- you simply can't be there all of the time. If your loved one won't say anything, perhaps out of shame or because of memory issues, how are you going to know when it's time to step in?

The key is to look for signs of abuse. Physical signs, like bruises and lacerations, may be the most obvious. However, there are other more subtle things that you can watch out for as well. One could be a sudden change, such as a withdrawal from typical activities or a change in mood.

For example, perhaps your loved one was always happy and liked to socialize when you visited before. He or she would go to community meals, participate in games and activities and get along with the staff members and other residents.

Then, one day, your loved one seemed to lose all interest. He or she became silent and sullen. Instead of going to community meals, your relative wanted to eat in the room. Instead of doing activities, he or she just spent the evening watching television and then went to bed early. You even began to wonder if depression was setting in.

It's important to note that this doesn't mean abuse is definitely happening. However, it is one potential indicator of abuse, and you may want to begin looking into things more closely. If you do wind up finding evidence of abuse, then you need to know what legal steps you can take.

Source: ACL, "What is Elder Abuse?," accessed March 10, 2017

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