Know the signs of nursing home neglect and abuse
Help protect your loved ones by knowing what to look for
A decision many people have to face is whether or not to place their parents in the care of a nursing home. A difficult decision to say the least, that difficulty is typically compounded by seniors who are resistant to entering a home.
A fear of potential abuse or neglect of their relatives can be one component that makes the nursing home decision more difficult. Recognizing whether abuse or neglect is taking place can be challenging, especially for the relatives of elderly people suffering from conditions such as dementia that can greatly distort their sense of reality. In such instances, reports of abuse or neglect are hard to believe and might be looked at as attempts to get attention.
Many nursing homes take their residents’ care seriously and are compassionate. Unfortunately, however, there are some homes that may be neglectful of a residents’ needs. In such instances, particularly if the resident is suffering from memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease or another condition that could affect their point of view, visitors need to know the warning signs of neglect or abuse and spring into action if any of those warning signs are prevalent.
The staff at a nursing home has numerous responsibilities, which leaves room for potential neglect if the home is understaffed or the existing staff is underqualified. That neglect can come in many different forms.
Physical neglect: Physical neglect often reveals itself in the absence of life’s daily necessities, such as adequate toiletries, soaps, etc. If visits regularly reveal these items are in short supply or are not there at all, chances are your relative is not getting the best care possible.
Mental neglect: Nursing home residents need daily interaction with other people just like everyone else. While some residents’ diminishing mental condition might limit their abilities to communicate with others, someone should be spending time with your relative on a daily basis, be it other residents or staff.
Medical neglect: Nursing home residents often have existing medical conditions that require daily attention. If neglected, the severity of these conditions often escalates. A big reason many people place elderly relatives in nursing homes is so staff can provide the care that relatives cannot. Medication needs to be given (and accepted by residents) on the schedule prescribed by a doctor, and any new guidelines need to be followed. Physical therapy should be adhered to if prescribed by a doctor.
Medical neglect is also noticeable if a nursing home resident is regularly suffering from dehydration, bed sores or malnutrition. These conditions suggest a staff that is indifferent to your relative’s needs. Also, if infections are common or conditions that promote infection (unsanitary bedrooms and bathrooms, for example) are evident, that’s a case of medical neglect.
Like neglect, abuse can come in many forms. Unlike neglect, however, abuse can be harder to recognize, particularly if a relative is suffering from diminished mental capacity.
Physical abuse: Physical abuse can run the gamut, ranging from sexual assaults to minor scrapes and cuts. Unex- plained injuries, unreasonable physical restraint if a person needs help moving, and wrongfully disciplining a person by slapping, pushing, or shaking all qualify as physical abuse and should not be tolerated, regardless of a person’s mental state. If staff is quick to medicate as a means of calming a resident down, that as well is physical abuse.
Emotional abuse: Patients who are emotionally upset, extremely withdrawn or have little desire to communicate could be victims of emotional abuse. Unusual behavior one might expect of a young child could also indicate a resident has been emotionally abused. A resident whose demeanor changes from pleasant and welcoming to combative and abusive could also be a victim of emotional abuse.
These are just a few of the signs that might indicate a nursing home resident has been abused or neglected. Anyone considering nursing homes should look for a place close to their home, so they can be a regular part of the person’s life and ensure that staff is treating their relative in a humane and professional way.
Quality care: A good nursing home will monitor and stay up to date on all of a resident’s needs.