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Who can help identify elder abuse in a Charleston nursing home?

It's sad to say, but older people are targets for mistreatment. The elderly can be easy to threaten, ignore, manipulate and abuse emotionally, physically or even sexually. Who stands up for people who cannot or will not complain or defend themselves from this kind of behavior from a caregiver?

Doctors and social workers may be able to see past the lies that a Charlestown nursing home resident accidentally fell out of bed or imagined harassment. Even an elderly person's family members may be convinced a relative's physical or mental state contributed to bruises or mood changes without investigating further. Social workers are familiar with abuse symptoms family members may not notice or take seriously.

A nursing home injury can occur without an incident of abuse. Residents may harm themselves trying to do things alone, like get to a bathroom. But, in some cases, bruises and injuries can't be explained easily, and it's important to find out how they were caused.

It's likely an injured person will hesitate to talk about mistreatment with anyone if the resident's well-being has been threatened by an abuser. Sometimes, the victim must be questioned directly but gently to get to the truth about a fall, neglect or harassment.

Social workers see elderly patients who clinicians suspect are abuse victims. The patient is often frightened until the social worker establishes the nursing home resident has nothing to fear by talking about the abuse.

An interviewer may discover the patient is depressed and out of touch with friends and family members. The session may reveal the patient was exploited financially, went without meals or was subjected to terrifying emotional and physical ordeals.

Social workers are among advocates ready to stop abuse in nursing homes. Attorneys can help back victims and family members' claims against negligent facilities and abusers in their employ. Evidence is the key to seeing these claims through the legal process.

Source: Society for Social Work Leadership in Health Care, "Standards of Care" Jan. 07, 2015

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