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Preventing elder abuse in nursing homes and care facilities

Many of New Mexico's senior citizens live in nursing homes and care facilities because of illness and the need for constant medical care that many relatives are not able to physically and emotionally provide, although many would like to. Unfortunately, nursing home abuse is also a reality. Too many older residents are victimized by nursing home employees, a fact that some family members never know about.

Nursing home abuse can take a variety of forms, including physical, emotional, sexual and even financial. Sometimes, nursing home staff members will isolate a resident and ignore his or her physical well-being. In the worst cases, residents are physically or sexually assaulted by staff and even other residents.

Many awareness programs have been created to warn both caregivers and family members about the dangers of nursing home abuse. Residents themselves are encouraged to try to maintain active social lives and avoid becoming isolated from friends and family members; isolation can make a resident an easier target. If abuse or neglect at the hands of staff members seems likely to visiting family members or friends, speaking up will go a long way toward preventing further abuse and bringing an abuser to justice.

Family members of nursing home residents are encouraged to be vigilant when visiting nursing homes and facilities. If a resident complains of abuse or seems frightened in the presence of staff members, then family members are advised to contact law enforcement and regulatory authorities. Checking the resident's financial accounts can reveal any financial wrongdoing by staff members. In case of grave abuse and neglect resulting in major physical, sexual, psychological or financial abuse, the family of the resident can seek legal protection from law enforcement officials. The National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center can also help by providing information on finding good facilities.

Source: WomensHealth.gov, "Nursing home abuse," Accessed on Dec. 16, 2014

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