According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 6 adults aged 60 or older endured some kind of abuse in a nursing home or community facility between 2017 and 2018. To make matters worse, elder abuse is often not reported, according to the Office of the Inspector General.  This abuse can range from physical, emotional, financial, and sexual abuse, as well as neglect. In the case of Ruby Oliver, her horrifying treatment led to her death.
Warning Everyone With a Grandparent in Nursing Homes
Oliver’s granddaughter, Sherrie Smith, publicized a warning to anyone who has a family member in a nursing home:
“They are not going to love and care for that person like you are. It’s another person to them. To you it’s your grandmother, your mother, your father.” 
During the pandemic in Houston, Texas, Smith was only able to see her grandmother through a window. However, when restrictions were lifted, Smith found her grandmother in a horrible and painful state. Her injuries caused her death a short time later. “It’s been a journey. It has been a lot to deal with,” says Smith.
Oliver’s inhumane treatment was a stark contrast to how she used to be. Smith remembers her as a dignified, well-put-together woman, even in her later years.
“She was a diva, she deserved the best,” Smith explains. Oliver had worked as an elementary school teacher, a nurse, and did charity work with her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta. “She had the best clothes. She gave the best gifts.”
But Smith found her grandmother with large, gory bedsores. “They are really bad, two on one side, one on her back and one on the other side. So there was no way for her, at all, to get comfortable,” Smith says.
Suffering From Elder Abuse
But bedsores were just one issue among many.
“She had a private room. Her restroom didn’t have hot water. She had roaches in her room. She had bedsores that were so huge. I can’t imagine a human being or an animal being treated in that way.” Smith immediately removed her from that nursing home. “I actually called 911 and I had them pick her up from the facility and take her to the hospital. She had a fractured back, fractured pelvis. Along with the other sores and stuff like that she was malnourished and she was dehydrated”.
On September 1, 2021, the 92-year-old died from an internal infection as a result of the bedsores. Smith wishes she left some kind of communication device in her grandmother’s room before the pandemic hit. “Whether that be an internal camera where you can kind of zoom in and see them at any given time or by that person being able to FaceTime or something to where you can physically put your eyes on that person on a regular basis”.
Unfortunately, rates of elder abuse have increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to WHO. People who are at risk of becoming victims include those with cognitive impairments, poor mental health, poor physical health, disabilities, and low incomes. However, strategies to stop this abuse need more research to prove their effectiveness. These can include caregiver interventions to relieve the burden of the job, money management programs, helplines, and multi-disciplinary teams, and adult protective services. 
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Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
If you have a loved one in a nursing home, look out for warning signs. Keep in mind, these can range from light neglect to brutal physical abuse.
Warning signs for physical abuse and neglect include:
- Broken and fractured bones
- Bruises, cuts, and burns on the skin
- Dehydration and malnutrition
- Unexplained weight loss
- Head and dental injuries
- Lack of personal hygiene and dirty clothes and bed sheets
- Fatigue and sleep disorders
- Worsening infections
Warning signs for emotional abuse include:
- Anxiety, depression, and lowered self-worth
- Trauma and PTSD
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
- Substance abuse
- More aggressive or violent behavior
Warning signs for sexual abuse include:
- Inappropriate physical touch from the staff members
- Wounds around the genitals
Warning signs for financial abuse include:
- Opening bank accounts or credit cards
- Unexplained charges or transactions
- Changes to the power of attorney 
If you suspect elder abuse, it’s vital that you report it. If not, it’s likely the abuse will only continue. You can contact the police, the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, or Adult Protective Services (APS) if you’re in the United States or a similar local service. They will conduct a welfare check on the residents, but it’s advised to move the victim out of the nursing home to protect their safety. However, in the case of a potentially life-threatening situation, call 911 immediately.
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