Fortunately, a co-worker witnessed the abuse and reported it. But it makes you wonder what would have happened if the witness did not report it or if there was no witness. If the patient had severe dementia, she likely would not have the cognitive abilities to report the crime and if she did report it, it is likely that no one would have believed her due to her medical state.
Having more staff present in nursing homes increases the chances that a witness will be present. Having a witness present, though, is not enough if the witness is scared to report what he/she has seen. This is why hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical facilities should have anonymous abuse reporting mechanisms that are well publicized.
It is ideal to have responsible family members present to visit the elderly in medical facilities because staff would be less likely to abuse a patient who they know have family members who are keeping an eye on the patient and have a close relationship with hospital workers (particularly those in senior positions) and who are advocating for them. Unfortunately, patients with no family members who are isolated are the ones most vulnerable to abuse because they have no one to look out for them. Checking over a loved on for unexplained bruises, cuts, or other marks on the body should be done regularly. Reasonable explanations (e.g., slip and fall) for marks on the body (e.g., black and blue) should have some confirmatory documentation in the medical record. Suspected abuse should be reported immediately so that it does not continue to occur.