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If an elderly person goes silent, are they being abused?

Your elderly parent has always been happy and expressive for as long as you can remember. Even when they started having trouble living alone, it did not dampen their spirits. Neither did the initial move to the nursing home.

Now, though, six months into their stay, they’ve essentially gone silent. They hardly talk. They don’t want to socialize. They don’t spend time with others in the nursing home. When you come to visit, they just sit there staring out the window or, even worse, staring at the wall. Could this be a sign that they’re being abused?

Unfortunately, it could. According to the National Institute on Aging, someone suddenly becoming withdrawn is a potential sign of abuse. So could things like rocking back and forth — a potential indicator of trauma — and suffering from depression.

Your loved one may not want to tell you about the abuse, perhaps because they are embarrassed or even afraid of their abuser. If they suffer from any issues that impact their memory or cognitive abilities, they may not be able to tell you — or even remember what happened.

That doesn’t mean all is well. You may need to read between the lines. When you see significant changes in their behavior, it could mean something is deeply wrong and that you need to step in to protect them.

If you do find out about abuse or you suspect that it is happening, make sure you know what steps to take. An attorney who’s experienced with nursing home and other elder abuse issues can provide valuable guidance.

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