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Can you spot the telltale signs of nursing home abuse?

Before picking a nursing home for your elderly parents, you do your homework.

You read nursing home reviews. You check online publications. You find other people whose loved ones are in the homes, and you interview them. You take multiple tours, and you drop by unannounced to see what the homes look like when an official tour isn't taking place. You talk to the staff. You get recommendations from friends and people you trust.

Once you've chosen

You finally pick a home that you think will be safe and welcoming. You drop your parent off, helping him or her get moved in.

Don't stop now. Nursing home abuse and neglect could still happen. That's why it is up to you to keep your eyes open for potential signs of abuse so that you know when to take action. These signs can include:

1. Making changes to legal and financial documents

Abuse is not always physical. Financial abuse can happen when unauthorized people try to influence elderly people for their own gain. If your parents change their will or start making unexplained bank withdrawals, it could be a red flag that someone is taking advantage of them.

2. Acting anxious around staff members

Elderly people suffering from memory issues and degenerative brain disease may not communicate their fears effectively, but this does not mean they don't feel afraid. Caregivers are supposed to be kind and helpful. If they make your parents act fearful or anxious, ask yourself what could be happening behind the scenes.

3. Not eating or sleeping properly

Abuse can have a wide-ranging impact, leading to nightmares, restlessness, anxiety and loss of appetite. When you see changes to routines that have been in place for years, you know that something is wrong. Plus, poor eating and sleeping habits can be very dangerous and even deadly for the elderly, so you cannot ignore these changes.

4. Becoming withdrawn, quiet or depressed

Any unexplained change should be explored, and that is especially true when it seems like depression is setting in. This often happens with emotional abuse or sexual abuse. Outward physical signs may not be obvious, but you may notice mood swings and personality changes. Maybe you feel like you barely know your own parents any more. While people do change as they grow older, sudden negative changes like that should set off alarm bells.

Acting after seeing the signs

This is not an exhaustive list of potential signs. Always trust your gut. You know your parents better than anyone.

If you think something is wrong, it probably is. Make sure you understand what you can do next. In some cases, getting legal advice is an appropriate step.

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