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How to Detect Nursing Home Abuse

6 Signs That Your Loved One Needs a Better Nursing Home

According to the International Journal of Epidemiology, the elderly population ages 85 and above will increase by nearly 350 percent in America by 2050. This statistic holds dramatic implications for nursing home care throughout the country.

If your loved one already lives in a long-term care facility or nursing home, you may already know about the facility’s challenges. For one thing, many nursing homes are short staffed—a problem that will only grow in coming years. Unfortunately, staffing pressures sometimes lead to neglect and elder abuse in some cases.

Watch for the following warning signs at your local nursing home so you can safeguard your loved one from neglect or abuse.

1. Poor Janitorial Care

When visiting the nursing home, pay attention to its general cleanliness. Look past the lobby, which may appear clean and shiny. Glance at the other areas in the nursing home, particularly residents’ rooms and other areas farther away from the lobby.

If you notice dirt, dust, or worse, find out more information on cleaning routines. Ask about cleaning frequency, maintenance routines, and the number of janitors on the staff. If the whole nursing home appears pleasant and clean, that’s a good sign. If it’s dirty, poorly lit, and smelly, these are danger signals. Don’t ignore them.

2. Low Caretaker-to-Resident Ratio

When you visit your loved one, pay attention to nurses and other attendants. A mealtime visit is particularly revealing, since staff are busiest during this time. If residents have to wait a long time for meals or general attention, ask attendants about the caregiver/resident ratio.

Also, notice how caregivers speak to the residents. If staff members know each resident by name and take time to chat, the caregiver/resident ratio is probably good. If the ratio is too low, however, you may see a lot of stressed workers who rush meals or don’t attend well to residents’ needs.

3. On-Call vs. Permanent Nursing Staff

If you see a good number of nurses at the facility, you may assume that these caregivers know each resident intimately.

Unfortunately, nursing shortages abound in elder care. If the majority of nurses are on-call from an agency, they won’t know your loved one’s needs well, nor will they have time to bond with each patient. Any nursing home staff should limit agency nurses to less than 15 percent of the overall nursing staff. Ask for details when you visit.

4. Signs of Physical Neglect

If you notice marked changes in your loved one’s appearance or behavior, don’t overlook these signs. Visit as often as you can so you can document each concern. In particular, watch for:

  • Bruises or bedsores
  • Bleeding or scratches
  • Unexplained pain or discomfort
  • Sudden infections
  • Signs of physical restraint
  • Physical or emotional withdrawal, especially when caregivers and nursing staff are near

While any one of these signs may not necessarily mean intentional abuse, they do suggest neglect. Report these signs to staff members. If the problems don’t improve, or—if they worsen—contact your local eldercare authority or the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA).

Additionally, contact an attorney who specializes in abuse or medical malpractice. Your attorney can give you further information on what information to document.

5. Other Neglect

It’s not unusual to see some residents who look lonely or silent. In some cases, these residents may suffer from dementia or other memory-related diseases. But if most residents appear immobile and uncared for, this situation may indicate neglect.

If your loved one calls for help, how long do they wait for assistance? If you notice a lack of safety bars or physical aids in your loved one’s room, ask why. If all the residents complain about the cold, the staff may set the temperatures for their own comfort, not the residents’ comfort.

Lastly, pay attention to privacy concerns. Anything from undressing a patient in full view of other residents to placing multiple residents in one room can cause discomfort for your loved one. With a higher demand for nursing homes, some facilities overcrowd their rooms to fit in more people.

6. Financial Exploitation

Although most nursing care facilities try to run an above-board operation, some employees may take advantage of elderly patients in ways other than simple neglect.

For instance, if your loved one mentions altering his or her will, find out the circumstances. If you or your parent don’t have an attorney, now is a good time to hire one.

Your lawyer can check issues such as power of attorney, changes to wills, and/or any other financial issues such as overcharges or supposedly unpaid bills. All these issues may signal poor management practices or even criminal conduct from caregivers.

Final Tips

To ensure that your loved one’s care is appropriate, visit the nursing home as often as possible. The more you know the routine, the better care you can expect from nursing staff.

If you and your lawyer decide that a nursing home move is necessary, make sure the new facility is located close by family members. Then pay attention to the above concerns when you visit the new nursing home. Remember: you don’t need to make these decisions on your own. Trust your lawyer as you make any needed changes.

Date: October 1, 2015

Medical Malpractice
Nursing Home Abuse
Patient Safety

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