When we place our loved ones in nursing homes, we rightfully expect that they will not be physically, sexually, or emotionally abused. We should further expect, however, that the nursing home will live up to an acceptable standard of care, and provide our loved ones with the time and attention necessary to give them a balanced and healthy life. All too often, unfortunately, nursing homes fail to live up to the basic needs of their residents and neglect their general hygiene, happiness, and health through a pattern of substandard care. This pattern can be extremely damaging to a resident's physical and emotional health and can leave them more susceptible to severe health conditions and general deterioration.
Signs and Symptoms of Nursing Home Neglect
Sometimes neglect can be very hard to determine. Residents experiences neglect may not even realize that there is an issue with their care and may even have positive relationships with the staff who are neglecting them. However, this behavior is still damaging and should be rectified as soon as possible to avoid long-term consequences. If you are concerned that neglect may be occurring in your loved one's nursing home, there are some warning signs that may help you determine when to take action.
Often, elderly individuals rely on their caretakers to help them with everyday hygiene tasks such as brushing their teeth, changing their clothes, combing hair, clipping nails, or even bathing. When a resident starts to become unkempt or physically unclean, it may be because the staff has stopped tending to their everyday needs. This might occur because the resident's health condition has worsened and they require more help, the facility may be understaffed, or particular caretakers may have chosen not to complete their tasks.
Lack of Sanitation
Besides a resident's personal cleanliness, it is also important to note the general state of the facilities. Are the bathrooms and kitchens kept sanitary? Are your loved one's sheets and bedding changed with sufficient frequency? While neglect often involves a nursing home's failure to provide a service to a resident, it can also include a lack of attention to basic health and safety standards. This could create a situation in which viruses and diseases spread between residents within the home. A history of communicable disease within the facility is another red flag.
Lack of Nutrition
One of the most basic requirements of a nursing home is that they provide their residents with nutritious and substantial food. If the resident is unable or unwilling to consume certain foods due to depression, dementia, or physical issues swallowing, the nursing home should create a diet in conjunction with a doctor and/or nutritionist which fulfills the resident's nutritional needs and keeps them as healthy as possible. They should also track when residents skip meals or fail to drink water so that more serious issues do not develop.
Loss of Mobility
While the natural process of aging may reduce an individual's mobility, activity, assisted walking, stretching, and physical therapy can help elderly people maintain a reasonable level of mobility. Maintaining mobility is particularly important as you age because it helps retain healthy circulation and balance and reduces muscle cramps. If a resident's mobility is not properly attended to, they may permanently lose it. If you notice a sudden change in your loved one's ability to get up from a chair, walk to the bathroom, or reach for an object, it could be a sign of neglect.
The rate of injury does tend to increase with age. However, when a resident is left unattended for extended periods of time, they may attempt to complete tasks on their own. For example, if a caretaker does not come to help a resident use the restroom or retrieve water, they may attempt to get up on their own and fall. Alternatively, even if an injury occurs under appropriate supervision, a nursing home can neglect a victim by failing to give them prompt medical care. Injuries that have not been attended to or seem to be healing slowly are usually a sign that a resident is not closely looked after.
Psychological and Behavioral Problems
Lack of care or attention can cause psychological problems and may even border on psychological abuse. If a resident feels that they are neglected, their self-esteem may go down, resulting in a lack of interest in activities which they used to enjoy. Victims of neglect may become withdrawn, anxious, depressive, or even aggressive as they lash out against those who fail to care for them. Neglected residents can also begin to show a pattern of self-negligence as they learn not to care about their own health or well-being. A particular change in behavior or personality is often a sign of abuse or neglect.
Ending Neglect in Nursing Homes
Although the early stages of neglect may not have severe and immediate consequences, a pattern of neglect can be devastating on the resident of a nursing home. An environment of neglect breeds other forms of abuse because both residents and their caretakers know that safety, comfort, and happiness are not central to the facility's management. We want every elderly resident to feel safe and cared for in their home, and we work to assure that nursing homes do not slide by while administering substandard care to those in their charge.
Because neglect usually involves the absence of action on the part of a caretaker, it can be more difficult to prove than physical or sexual assault, for example. Often, multiple violations must occur and be documented and witnessed by staff so that the neglect becomes impossible to fail to acknowledge. If you are considering taking legal action against a facility for neglect, consider speaking with trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian today. Elder abuse cases require a level of familiarity with the process of investigation and must be handled with dexterity and expertise. Call them today at 800.529.6162 or contact them online.