4 red flags for people with loved ones in Maryland nursing homes

Family members who are vigilant in caring for loved ones in Maryland nursing homes may quickly spot the symptoms of abuse.

The decision to place a family member in a Maryland nursing home is not one that most people make easily. It is a choice to allow other people to care for that loved one in the hopes that they would be just as caring and attentive as the family would be.

In many facilities across the state, dedicated nurses, doctors and other staff serve residents well. It is an unfortunate fact, however, that many people suffer at the hands of the very people who should be looking out for their best interest. According to the Maryland Department on Aging, there were 192 alleged cases of elder abuse in long-term care facilities in fiscal year 2015.

If you have someone in such a facility, having an awareness of the signs of abuse is key to protecting your loved one. Here are four red flags that should raise your suspicion:

1. Unexplained bruises or marks

It is common for residents in these facilities to get bumps and bruises from everyday activities or even a fall. However, if marks start showing up without a reasonable explanation, or if the explanation sounds fishy, loved ones should take notice. Markings around the wrist may be a sign that the resident has been restrained. Bruises or lacerations may be a sign that a staff member or even another resident is causing physical harm.

2. Bedsores

Sadly, many people in adult-care facilities spend much of their time in bed or in a wheelchair due to illness or injury. For these people, it is important that medical staff members prevent bedsores or pressure sores by helping the patient change positions, keeping the skin clean and using pillows to alleviate pressure. If those steps are not taken, and the patient is being neglected, these painful sores may develop.

3. Sudden weight loss

Another sign of neglect in a nursing home is a patient who is rapidly losing weight. This could happen for a number of reasons, such as failing to monitor the person's diet or failing to provide the patient with food. In some cases, a patient who is suffering depression or anxiety because of elder abuse may refuse to eat or have a serious loss in appetite.

4. Behavioral changes

A sudden change in a loved one's behavior may indicate that something is amiss. For example, the resident used to enjoy participating in certain activities but is now withdrawn and isolated. This frequently happens with victims of abuse.

Of course, observing one of these behaviors does not necessarily mean that abuse is happening. A patient's sudden weight loss could be due to a medical condition and not abuse, for example. However, each of these - separate or combined - should send off an alarm with loved ones that the matter should be further explored.

People who have questions about this issue should speak with a personal injury attorney in Maryland.