It’s a sad truth—nursing home neglect is far more common than the headlines about the worst abuse cases and tragedies would have us believe. The National Council on Aging estimates that 1 in 10 Americans who are age 60 and over have experienced some form of abuse, such as negligent nursing care, but only 1 in every 14 cases ever gets reported.
And there are many seemingly small infractions that you may not have even considered—a missed meal here or there, minor falls, a medication mistake once in a while—which can constitute nursing home negligence. These little problems and other under-the-radar abuses tend to build up and should not be ignored by loved ones of individuals living in nursing homes, assisted living/personal care facilities, and larger retirement communities.
Today’s post takes a closer look at what friends and family of nursing home residents—as well as residents themselves—should be concerned about within long-term care environments.
We’ll touch on a few things to be paying attention for that could signal neglect and abuse of a care facility resident. Additionally, we’ll tell you what to do to in response. Even if you’re not entirely sure whether something is wrong, it is wise to be overly cautious and ensure that your or your loved one’s nursing facility is following the law. One of your best resources for doing so are highly experienced personal injury attorneys.
Nursing Homes Are Safety Regulated—But Abuses Still Occur
Our Commonwealth does take nursing home safety seriously and inspects licensed nursing homes annually through the PA Department of Health to ensure that they’re following published regulations in a variety of key health and safety categories.
Unfortunately, however, resident abuse and neglect can still happen, and many facilities continue to operate despite being sanctioned and/or fined by the state.
While the Department of Health can effectively force a nursing home to close its doors if it is regularly found to be deficient, that process can take years. Plus, as recent local news reports have shown, underperforming nursing homes are given many “second chances,” and some can even appear to hide their poor ratings from the public.
Signs to Look for that Could Indicate Neglect or Elder Abuse in Nursing Facilities
With the failures of government regulators in mind, loved ones of nursing facility residents need to be on the lookout for subtle—and some not so subtle—clues that a care home they thought they could trust may be hiding negligence and abuse.
While personality changes, mood swings, and depression can accompany certain neurological diseases and disorders like Alzheimer’s or generalized dementia, unusual or sudden changes in a nursing home resident’s behavior should be evaluated by a trusted medical professional unassociated with the care facility. Individuals who are suffering from emotional abuse from a caregiver may begin to act in ways that are out of character, but other personality-affecting illnesses must first be ruled out.
Have you noticed bruises, burns, pressure marks, or even broken bones with your loved one that do not make sense? While minor accidents sometimes occur in nursing homes—someone trips over a walker or stumbles on the way to the dining room—these incidents should be documented appropriately among staff caretakers. If your loved one is getting hurt and no one can tell you more about it, that is a major red flag that physical abuse is happening.
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Poor Personal Hygiene
Bedsores and weight loss are two big warning signs that your loved one’s personal care needs are being neglected. You may also notice that they appear unkempt or are physically dirty, which can contribute to infections and illness that may be more difficult to notice. Nursing homes are required to provide for individuals’ personal hygiene on a regular basis, and if they are not, it’s a form of nursing negligence.
Lost Personal Possessions
Depending on the payment structure of the nursing facility, your loved one may not have direct access to much actual money. However, many residents have personal items of value like jewelry, eyewear, hearing aids, and even shoes and clothing. If these things begin to go missing and no one has answers, it’s possible they’re being stolen, which is also a form of abuse.
What to Do If You Suspect Abuse or Neglect in Residential Care Centers
Fortunately, nursing home residents and their loved ones have many resources for reporting any abuse or negligence concerns they may have. Starting with the nursing home administrator is always a good idea, though you must realize you’ll likely have to go beyond the facility’s walls for the best help. Here are some ways to get started.
Make Reports to Elder Care Authorities
There are scores of state and national-level agencies and organizations that seek to prevent elder abuse and nursing home negligence. Here in PA, filing a nursing facility complaint should be on your list of to-dos, especially if you feel like your concerns are being ignored by the nursing home administration. The PA Department of Aging also has a system for reporting suspected elder abuse, as well as a long-term care ombudsman to look into potential problems with nursing home residents’ treatment.
Contact Local Law Enforcement
If you ever feel that your loved one is in immediate physical danger, or you suspect that nursing home staff is stealing his or her personal possessions, you should contact the police.
Remove the Resident
If abuse and neglect are happening to your loved one in a nursing facility, the chances are good that it’s not an isolated incident. Unfortunately, more residents are probably being mistreated than just your friend or family member. That said, you may feel best removing your loved one from the nursing home as quickly as possible, especially if they’re ill or hurt and not getting the care they desperately need.
Once they are safe, make sure to file complaints with the proper agencies, call the police, or call us to discuss your options and sort through potential next steps.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
Obviously, there are a plethora of resources that you can engage to help determine whether your loved one is indeed suffering in a negligent nursing home and then make appropriate complaints and reports, as well. However, determining the right course of action that both keeps your friend or family member safe and ensures that justice is served can be extremely overwhelming.
That’s where experienced and compassionate personal injury attorneys are ready to step in and help you. Here at May, Herr & Grosh, our attorneys understand how to approach these often delicate situations with nursing home residents who may be suffering at the hands of so-called professionals they should be able to trust. Call (717) 862-5344 or fill out our contact form online to schedule your free phone consultation today.