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Cognitive impairment is a common condition in older adults. In this article, we’ll define the term “cognitive impairment,” review its symptoms and causes, and explain how it relates to nursing home abuse. 

Key Takeaways

  • Cognitive impairment is a condition of struggling with cognitive functions such as memory, learning, concentrating, and decision-making
  • Symptoms of cognitive impairment include memory issues, attention issues, confusion, agitation, and speech problems
  • Temporary cognitive impairment can be caused by things such as infection, medication, and vitamin deficiency
  • Long-term cognitive impairment can be caused by stroke, brain injury, and dementia
  • Nursing home residents with cognitive impairment are at an increased risk for nursing home abuse

What Is Cognitive Impairment?

Cognitive impairment is a condition in which a person struggles with cognitive functions such as memory, attention, speech, or recognition. It can be mild, severe, or in between. It can also come and go. When cognitive impairment is temporary, it is called delirium. 

Symptoms of Cognitive Impairment

People with cognitive impairment may show any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty remembering things
  • Trouble paying attention
  • Issues speaking to or understanding others
  • Difficulty recognizing people, places, or things
  • Being overwhelmed by new places or situations
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Moodiness 
  • Difficulty with activities of daily living
  • Changes in speech or behavior  

Causes of Cognitive Impairment 

Temporary cognitive impairment may be caused by any of the following:

  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Infections such as a urinary tract infection or pneumonia
  • Reactions to medications or anesthetics
  • Dehydration

Causes of long-term cognitive impairment include:

  • Stroke
  • Brain injury
  • Dementia

Cognitive Impairment ​​and Nursing Home Abuse

While not all older people have cognitive impairment, it is more common in older people. As such, many residents of nursing homes have cognitive impairment, often of the long-term or permanent type. Nursing homes can be highly helpful for older adults dealing with cognitive impairment as they offer round-the-clock medical care for those who may have difficulty caring for themselves or executing some activities of daily living.

Unfortunately, cognitive impairment can sometimes make a nursing home patient a target for nursing home abuse, a sadly common occurrence. The World Health Organization reports that up to 5 million older people are abused in nursing homes every year and a shocking two out of three nursing home employees have admitted to abusing residents. 

With a decreased ability to advocate for themselves, a more difficult time communicating what is going on with them, and a lower likelihood of having their reports being believed, adults with cognitive impairment are especially vulnerable to mistreatment in nursing homes.

This is why it is so important for loved ones of nursing home residents with cognitive impairment to be aware of the risk of nursing home abuse. You should always keep an eye out for nursing home abuse warning signs and carefully observe how things are going for your loved one. If they show signs of nursing home abuse or try to tell you that something is wrong, listen to them and look into the issue. 

If you believe there your loved one has been a victim of nursing home abuse, it is important to report it to the relevant authorities immediately. We also highly recommend speaking to an experienced nursing home abuse attorney who can help you build a legal case in order to recover compensation for your and your loved one’s injuries, losses, and suffering.

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