What Are The Signs of Nursing Home Neglect?
The great challenge in eliminating and punishing nursing home abuse is that it often goes undetected. Elder abuse occurs in the shadows because many of the people who commit it have power, and those who suffer it either cannot or will not report it.
In many cases, it is up to family members to be on the lookout for warning signs and step forward when they spot them.
This places a great responsibility on families to protect their loved ones from physical harm and emotional abuse. However, it is something that you absolutely must do at all times.
Nursing Home Residents Cannot Always Speak Up for Themselves
Many nursing home residents suffer from some type of cognitive decline. They may have limited ability to express themselves coherently.
Many have some type of dementia, and some are completely non-verbal. They may not be able to tell you what they are going through. If they are able to, they may not have the ability to completely describe what is happening.
Therefore, it is imperative for family members to look for the warning signs.
If your loved one does say anything, they should be taken seriously at all times.
It is better to investigate alleged abuse and find out that nothing happened than to ignore what could be crucial clues. Your family members should be your first priority.
How to Prevent Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing homes know which families pay close attention to what happens to their loved ones. They realize who is watching them more closely. Oftentimes, this is enough to convince them to be more careful when they know that they are being watched.
Asking questions and being present shows staff members that you see what is happening. It is a sign that you will demand the proper care for your loved one.
Further, you should speak up when you notice that something is wrong with your family member.
If you think that your loved one is not getting the necessary care, you should seek legal help and professional medical advice.
A Nursing Home Must Report Abuse Allegations
If you and your family make any allegation of abuse, the nursing home staff cannot be quiet and just sit on it. They are legally obligated to pass the report on to the state within a very short period of time.
Nursing homes will face additional penalties after an investigation if they do not report the allegations in time. It does not matter whether the nursing home staff believes that the allegations are credible. They must report everything.
Fear of Specific Nursing Home Employees
We are not writing this to point a finger at every single nursing home employee. The vast majority of people who work at nursing homes are caring people who perform their job to the best of their ability.
There are a handful of bad employees, and nursing homes often fail to monitor or discipline them. A nursing home has a legal obligation to screen its employees and perform background checks.
Your loved one may be particularly afraid of one specific employee. Even if they are non-verbal, they may become visibly afraid in their presence.
They could shake or become very fearful when they see one particular employee.
If this happens with one employee, and it does not happen around other nursing home staff members, you should be very alarmed and consider reporting possible abuse.
Nursing Home Neglect Is a Sign of Abuse
Nursing home neglect is a form of abuse. Not caring for elders and paying any attention to their needs places them directly in harm's way.
Nursing homes often try to save money at the expense of their residents. One way that they do this is by cutting back on staff. Employees cost money, and the more that a nursing home has, the less money that they make.
However, nursing homes have an obligation to assist with the activities of daily life and provide essential medical care for their residents.
There are many ways that a resident can be injured by nursing home neglect. One common way is by pressure ulcers (also known as bed sores).
Pressure sores happen because nursing home staff leave an elder person in one position for too long, and their skin breaks down. This causes an infection that can progress rapidly and be deadly.
Pressure ulcers are often open wounds that grow worse without treatment
Lack of attention to the nursing home resident's personal hygiene can also be demoralizing and dangerous. Elderly residents are prone to infection, but nursing homes often do not follow Centers for Disease Control guidance about preventing infections.
Other instances of nursing home neglect that can put your loved one in danger include:
- Medical neglect (not providing timely health care when needed, such as CPR for pulmonary arrest)
- Medication errors (not administering certain medications when necessary or giving them the wrong ones)
- Dehydration (this can lead to physical weakness and is a risk factor for bed sores)
- Not changing bed clothes after the resident had an accident
- Lack of proper nutrition
- Neglect through lack of supervision, leading to falls, broken bones and bodily injury
Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse to Be on the Lookout For
Even if they cannot properly speak, nursing home residents may appear agitated when they are victims of abuse.
Here are some signs that they may be experiencing the severe emotional distress that is associated with nursing home abuse:
- They suddenly stop eating
- Unusual sucking
- Rocking behaviors
- Pulling at their clothing or skin
Your loved one may undergo sudden and severe changes in behavior that are a sign that something is wrong.
Signs of Financially Exploited Seniors
Nursing home residents are particularly vulnerable to financial exploitation at long term care facilities. Staff members and others have a great deal of power, and they can inflict financial harm.
They can take money out of their accounts, pressure them to change their will, or even commit healthcare fraud in their name. This type of abuse can be difficult to detect.
Here are some signs of financial abuse:
- Anxiety when finances are discussed
- Unexplained entries on accounts
- Signing over financial control to someone else
- Surprise bills
Families should carefully monitor their loved one's finances for this sneaky form of elder abuse. They can spot the warning signs if they are able to pay very close attention to potential financial exploitation.
Signs of Physical Elder Abuse
Families should take care to spot signs of physical abuse of a nursing home resident. These could include:
- Unexplained bruising or scars on the body
- Torn clothing
- Broken bones
- Marks on the wrists
- Broken hearing aids or eyeglasses
Physical elder abuse can take on a number of forms. Besides striking or being overly rough with the resident, another form of physical abuse is unlawful restraint.
Drugging a nursing home resident to keep them compliant is considered physical abuse. In addition, physical restraints, such as tying them to their wheelchair is also physical abuse.
Signs of Sexual Abuse
Given the subject, it could be difficult to spot the signs of sex abuse. It is even harder to know that sexual contact has occurred when your loved one is unable to tell you about it. Sex abuse can occur at the hands of staff or another resident.
Here are some signs of sexual abuse:
- Unexplained vaginal bleeding
- Sexually transmitted disease
- Torn clothing
- Genital infections
- Venereal disease
Sexual abuse is not just assault itself. Staff can commit abuse in other ways, such as voyeurism and making inappropriate and harassing comments. Be on the lookout for anything that seems wrong.
Emotional neglect and abuse are one of the most difficult types of abuse to spot. However, this form of abuse can lead to physical injury because it affects the resident's health.
Some staff members can single out one particular resident for blame and try to punish or berate them. They could subject them to verbal abuse or give them the silent treatment.
Even if your loved one shows no signs of physical abuse, changes in their mental state and behavior may still be a sign that something harmful is happening.
Older adults are particularly vulnerable to emotional neglect and abuse, and it could cause them to stop eating. Here, you may be able to file a lawsuit for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Abuse from Other Residents
Nursing home staff members are not the only ones who can commit physical and sexual abuse. Your loved one can be abused by a fellow resident.
Nursing homes can be held legally responsible for assaults committed by fellow residents, especially when they failed to spot warning signs or keep people who pose a known danger away from others.
Your loved one may be particularly afraid of or focused on another resident. They may be fearful in their presence or be fixated on talking about them. These are signs that you should be asking further questions.
Be Present at Living Facilities
One of the best ways that families can continue to monitor their loved one's well-being and spot warning signs of abuse is to be present.
That has become more difficult during COVID-19, but families should take every opportunity that they can to see their loved one and be vigilant for any indicators of abuse and neglect.
They should pay close attention to medical care and how the staff interacts with their family members and always be on the lookout for signs of nursing home abuse or neglect.
Notice Other Residents Too
Even if you do not spot direct physical signs of abuse on your loved one, you should pay attention in general to everything that you see at a nursing home. If you see other residents that show some signs of abuse, you should be asking more questions about your loved one.
Nursing home abuse is a pattern. It is rare that one employee will single out one specific nursing home resident for abuse. They may have a number of victims. If you see something wrong with another resident, you should become more vigilant about your own family.
Abuse at Assisted Living Facilities
Elder abuse is also a problem at assisted living facilities as well. Here, staff members also have some degree of control over residents.
While residents may be better able to speak up for themselves, they may simply be too afraid because of the power that the abuser has.
You should still be vigilant no matter the type of facility in which your loved one resides. Here, there are also warning signs of abuse.
Families Must Report Nursing Home Abuse
You can do one of several things when you suspect nursing home or elder abuse:
- Contact adult protective services
- Report your allegations to the nursing home
- Contact the state directly
- Call a lawyer for a free consultation
The most important thing is to do something about nursing home neglect and abuse.
How a Nursing Home Lawyer Can Help
If you suspect abuse, you should not hesitate to report it. If you are wondering what to do and the best way to do it, you should have a conversation with a nursing home lawyer.
They will describe the nursing home's legal obligations and let you know how to most effectively report the suspected abuse. They will also work with you on documenting the suspected abuse if you choose to file a nursing home abuse lawsuit in the future.
Legal Help for Nursing Home Abuse Victims
We are nursing home lawyers that can help make a difference for your family. Call Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers at (888) 424-5757 or fill out an online contact form for a free consultation.
We will work with your family to help you get justice when your nursing home resident has been the victim of abuse. Our nursing home abuse lawyers will investigate your case and file a lawsuit on behalf of your family.
At your free legal case review, we will both decide whether to pursue an attorney client relationship to pursue financial compensation for nursing home abuse and neglect.