5 Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect to Watch For
Aging isn’t easy. Between the natural aging process and the health problems that very commonly happen over time, many people need extra help taking care of themselves and living their day-to-day lives. For a large segment of the population, that means having to enter an assisted living facility or a nursing home, even if it’s just temporarily. It’s estimated that 40% of all Americans will enter a nursing home at some point in their lives.
Since a very common reason people enter nursing homes is because of health issues, nursing home staff are required to provide patients with all necessary medical care. This includes making sure that patients are being given medications as prescribed, are being moved to prevent bedsores, and are being fed an appropriate diet. Many people who decide to put a loved one in a nursing home decide to do so because they want their loved one to have the best possible care. But unfortunately, far too many nursing home patients become victims of medical malpractice or other injuries because of neglect.
If you have a loved one in a nursing home, it’s extremely important that you keep an eye out for signs of nursing home abuse. Patients who are being abused, neglected, or mistreated by nursing home staff may be reluctant to speak up on their own. Here are five of the biggest warning signs you should watch for.
Low Staffing Levels / High Turnover Rate
When nursing homes consistently have low staffing levels and high turnover rates, the more likely it becomes that patients will suffer from medical errors or neglect. When staff is consistently being spread too thinly, it’s hard for them to give each patient all the attention they need and it’s easier for nurses to make mistakes. Low staffing levels could also mean that the employees who are there aren’t being properly supervised. When nursing homes have high turnover rates, there’s also a chance that they may try to cut corners on hiring out of desperation to get staffing levels back up and hire workers who aren’t qualified for the job.
As you visit your loved one, keep an eye out for things like nurses taking a long time to respond to calls, how often you see nurses walking around the facility, and phones ringing frequently without being answered. Also be sure to ask your loved one about the care they’re receiving and carefully listen to the things they say. If they make comments that would indicate a lack of attention, bring up your concerns with a supervisor.
Falls / Lack of Fall Prevention
Falls can happen to anyone, but a very common reason why people enter nursing homes is because they have mobility issues. This is why it’s extremely important that nursing home facilities be kept free of hazards that could potentially cause a fall and that staff be attentive enough to help patients move so they don’t fall. If a patient falls while in a nursing home or you see hazards that could easily cause a fall, that’s a very big red flag. When older people fall, it can be the results can be devastating. The patient is very likely to suffer more severe injuries like broken bones and bone fractures or even die.
Unexplained Bruises and Other Injuries
Mysterious bruises, scrapes, welts, and other injuries are another very big warning sign of nursing home abuse. Bedsores are a serious sign that the nursing home’s staff is not providing patients with even a basic level of care. Unexplained bruises and scrapes could be a sign a patient is physically being abused by a member of the staff or that the staff is not exercising proper care when working with patients. Marks along wrists or ankles could indicate that the facility is improperly using patient restraints.
Dehydration and Weight Changes
One of the most common types of nursing home neglect is failing to provide patients with adequate nutrition. This can show itself in many different ways, including sudden weight loss, overall weakness, or dry lips. When visiting your loved one, ask them about the food they’re receiving. Make sure they’re getting all three meals per day, that any special dietary needs are being met, and that their requests for water are being fulfilled.
Nursing home staff needs to stay on top of managing the medication for so many different patients, it’s very easy for mistakes to happen. If you suspect your family member isn’t being given their medication as prescribed, ask to see the actual bottles of medication that your loved one is currently taking. Make sure that the amount of medication in the bottle is consistent with the date the prescription was last filled and the correct dosage.
These are just a few of the signs that a person is the victim of nursing home neglect. Also be on the watch for things like a patient showing a sudden disinterest in things that have always interested them, poor personal hygiene, or a nurse refusing to allow you to speak to the patient alone. These are also very strong indicators that abuse and neglect have been happening. If you suspect abuse or neglect has been happening, contact your local Adult Protective Services department for help. If your loved one has been injured in a nursing home, contact an attorney as soon as possible.