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Where do you turn when you suspect nursing abuse?

The feeling that something is wrong and there's nothing you can do to stop it from getting worse is awful -- and that's exactly what the relatives of the victims of nursing abuse often experience every day.

They're often unsure of whether the abuse is happening, what they should do and what happens afterward.

People are afraid of making a mistaken allegation

Often, they're tortured with conflicting feelings and questions they can't answer for themselves:

  • The nurse seems so friendly -- how can he or she possibly be the person hurting my elderly mother?
  • Maybe the bruises on my father really were from a fall. If I trust what he says, I could be getting an innocent nurse fired.
  • Accidents happen. Surely the nurses wouldn't have just ignored the bedsores my incapacitated uncle has on his hips?

People torture themselves with the fear that they'll make a false allegation based on their suspicions and the behavior of a senior with dementia and ruin someone's life -- but they actually have little to worry about.

Some symptoms of abuse or neglect should never be ignored

Nursing abuse and neglect happens for several reasons. Nurses have too many patients to handle so they overlook the ones that are the most compliant or get angry and violent at the ones who are the most difficult. Some nurses have drug addictions and just find it easy to steal from patients. Others are just cruel and enjoy the power they have over basically helpless people.

Never ignore signs of nursing abuse or undervalue your suspicions if you see:

  • Bruises or bleeding wounds, especially on the face or head
  • Repeated statements from the patient that he or she is being hurt
  • Sudden, fearful silence around a particular nurse
  • Bedsores, body odor or crusted fluids on the victim's skin
  • Filthy linens, gowns or unwashed hair
  • Unexplained pain or crying
  • The victim insists that his or her money, medications or personal items are missing

Trust your instincts. The odds are good that if you believe something is wrong, something is wrong.

Make a report immediately if you suspect abuse

Contact the nursing supervisor first and then the patient's doctor. They're mandated by law to look into the abuse allegations. Ask for a floor change. If you feel the victim is in immediate danger, call 911. An attorney who handles nursing negligence can also provide advice and assistance.

Source: health.usnews.com, "9 Warning Signs of Bad Care," Kurtis Hiatt, accessed Aug. 30, 2017

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