Nursing Home Abuse: Common Signs and How to Avoid Them

Placing the care of your loved one into the hands of a nursing home, assisted living facility, or other long-term care facility can be one of the most difficult decisions you will ever make.

While you do everything possible to research your options and choose a safe, clean, and reputable facility, medical malpractice, neglect, and abuse are unfortunate realities in many nursing homes. In fact, as many as 11 percent of elderly people have suffered some form of abuse or neglect in the past year, according to the American Journal of Public Health.

Worse, only one out of fourteen cases of elder abuse is brought to the attention of authorities, and 30 percent of nursing homes may be getting away with mistreatment.

Why Does Abuse Happen?

Think about it: caring for an elderly resident in a nursing home means that there must be someone there to help the resident eat, dress, toilet, shower or bathe, move to a wheelchair, commode or chair, and take medicine.

If a home does not have enough aides or nurses, the elderly residents will be unattended, neglected at mealtime, ignored when they need toileting, and suffer the failures and forgetfulness of an overworked staff.

Residents often fall trying to get to a bathroom by themselves when aides take hours to respond. Too-hot showers, untested by aides distracted by too many patients, can burn residents. Medicines can be mixed up by nurses handling too many prescriptions. Bedridden residents, who need to be turned by staff, can be left in one position too long and develop bedsores.

Be Aware of These Common Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

To help prevent the chance that your loved one will fall victim to nursing home abuse, keep in regular contact with them to discuss how they are feeling and how they are being treated by staff.

If they raise any concerns, take them seriously and investigate any claims to ensure that elder abuse is not taking place. Any concern that the dignity of your loved one is being compromised should be treated as a priority and looked into immediately.

The following are some of the most common signs of nursing home failures and abuse:

  • Unexplained injuries, including pressure marks from confinements, bruises, or cuts in various stages of healing
  • Malnutrition and weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Bedsores
  • Lack of basic hygiene
  • Unsanitary conditions
  • Lack of supervision
  • Unexplained changes in mood and behavior, including being non-communicative, easily agitated, or withdrawn
  • Unexplained accidents leading to broken bones or head injuries
  • Frequent illnesses and illnesses that are not promptly reported to physicians or family

Nursing Home Abuse Prevention Tips

Despite numerous state regulations designed to ensure a standard of care for elderly people in nursing homes, there continues to be abuse, injury, and wrongful death in these facilities. You can do your part to help prevent neglect and abuse through selection and vigilance.

  • Prevention through selection – When researching a facility, ask the following questions: what is the staff to patient ratio? How many aides are on the floor attending to the residents on a regular weekday and on weekends and holidays, the times when staff ratio may decrease? How does the place look and smell? Are the residents clean, dressed appropriately, and interacting with each other? How often does the staff meet with family? What are visiting rules? How long have the nurses and aides been in service, and how were they trained and/or certified? These are just some of the questions that you should answer by visiting the facility and speaking with administrators and staff.
  • Prevention through vigilance – After choosing a nursing home, closely monitor the level of care that your loved one receives. Visit frequently. Provide several phone numbers and other contact information to staff. Designate the doctor responsible for your loved one’s care and provide staff with a complete medical history. Then, keep an eye on any significant changes in your loved one’s health. Unfortunate as this may seem, the staff will listen to you, the family member, more quickly than they will to the resident. Make sure your loved one telephones if they are not receiving appropriate care, if their medicine is withheld, they are not receiving nutritious, edible, and sufficient food, if they are not being turned, if bedridden, or if they are not getting sufficient help toileting or showering. Your interest and quick intervention can make an incredible difference.

If you suspect that your loved one may be a victim, contact a New York City nursing home abuse lawyer at Mirman, Markovits & Landau, P.C. For a free consultation, fill out an online form today