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Elder abuse can happen at the hands of home health care workers

Many people associate abuse and negligence of elderly people with nursing homes. They've heard stories of overworked, underpaid, poorly trained staff members who are dealing with too many people to give them the care and attention they need. Some of them, unfortunately, intentionally harm and humiliate their vulnerable charges.

You may believe that by hiring one or more home health care professionals or by relying on a family member to take care of an elderly loved one, you don't have to worry about abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, that's not the case. It's still essential to keep an eye out for signs of physical and/or psychological abuse. Financial abuse is also a possibility when someone has access to your loved one's home and belongings.

Some people are more likely to be victims of abuse by caregivers than others. People with dementia and other cognitive impairments are at greater risk. Women are at greater risk of abuse -- particularly sexual abuse -- than men. Other risk factors include minority status, low income, a history of abuse, advanced age and substance abuse.

Things like malnutrition, dehydration, bruises, cuts, bedsores and poor hygiene can be physical signs of abuse or neglect. However, it can also manifest in changes in behavior. If your loved one is becoming depressed, withdrawn, anxious, fearful or exhibiting repetitive behavior, that's a sign that something's wrong. Whether it's due to abuse or some other factor, it shouldn't be ignored. Abuse can also cause dementia to worsen.

Anyone who intentionally neglects or abuses a person under their care may face criminal charges. If that person works for a company that furnishes home health care providers, you may be able to hold that company civilly liable as well. An experienced attorney can provide guidance based on your particular situation.

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