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Trust your gut: Nursing home abuse is real

Something seems wrong. You moved your elderly mother into a nursing home six months ago. Since then, you've slowly started feeling like there has been abuse or neglect in the home. But you don't have concrete proof.

Everyone is nice when you go to the nursing home. You've never witnessed any problems. All of the background checks were fine.

Plus, your mother has Alzheimer's. She often can't remember what happened a week before. She tells stories you know aren't true. You're not sure if her accounts of anything are reliable. It's not that you don't trust your mother, but you know how bad the disease can get.

Still, you can't shake the feeling that something is wrong. What should you do?

First and foremost, trust your gut. Nursing home abuse and neglect are real. Don't ignore the possible signs or try to talk yourself out of what you may be seeing.

Instead, start investigating. Spend more time talking with the staff. Find out who is with your mother most often. Talk to them and to co-workers. People might say something that tips you off. Don't be afraid to start digging.

Keep eyes peeled for signs

At the same time, keep your eyes out for signs. This may start with looking for bruises and lacerations. These can be clear signs of physical abuse or neglect. Don't tell yourself they must have come from a fall or an accident. Find out what happened.

Remember that physical signs aren't the only ones to watch for. You also need to look for personality changes. Anything that is sudden and out of the ordinary could tip you off.

For instance, maybe your mother has been kind and soft-spoken for as long as you can remember. Even with dementia, that hasn't changed. If you see her act out aggressively or fearfully, it tells you something. A sudden slip into depression can also be a clue. These mood or personality changes could happen even if your mother doesn't remember exactly what occurred.

Trust your inner sense

One of the biggest problems for residents who have Alzheimer's is that workers and even their own children often stop paying attention. They assume that all unlikely stories are made up. They assume the person remembers nothing accurately.

The reality is that your mother may well be telling the truth, and she may remember bits and pieces of what's happening. This is why trusting your gut and looking for additional evidence are key. It's far better to look into it and find out that your mother made it up than to assume it's made up when abuse is actually occurring.

Nursing home abuse comes in many forms, such as emotional abuse, physical abuse and financial abuse, and it's crucial to understand all legal options in any of these cases.

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