We all like to think that when we leave our loved ones in the care of trained staff at a nursing home, they will be well provided for. Unfortunately, elder abuse is a growing problem in the 15,000+ nursing homes operating throughout the United States. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that around one in six people over the age of 60 experiences some type of abuse in a community setting. This abuse can cause serious long-term injuries and psychological repercussions.
There are many different types of abuse that elderly adults can experience in nursing homes, including physical, emotional, sexual, or financial abuse. Abandonment in nursing homes is not a type of abuse that we often think of, likely because we are paying someone to take care of our loved one. Unfortunately, abandonment is becoming more common due to understaffing in care facilities.
Examples of Abandonment in Nursing Homes
No resident in a nursing home should ever be abandoned. However, if a caregiver neglects or deserts a resident without making reasonable arrangements to ensure they will be taken care of in their absence, that is the definition of abandonment.
Some examples of nursing home abandonment include:
- Leaving without giving a supervisor or another qualified staff member sufficient notice
- Taking responsibility for the care of a patient and then leaving without telling anyone, thereby jeopardizing the patient’s health and safety
- Leaving for the day without communicating the health status of the patient
While the above examples are usually the result of pure negligence or recklessness by the caregiver, sometimes abandonment occurs because the facility is understaffed. This can occur when:
- The caregiver is busy and fails to turn or shift patients regularly to prevent the occurrence of bedsores
- The caregiver fails to check on patients frequently enough to ensure their needs are being met
- The caregiver fails to give medications according to the patient’s schedule or at all
- The caregiver fails to respond to a patient’s request for help in a timely manner or ignores the request entirely
- The patient is not given proper help when eating and therefore suffers from inadequate nutrition
When an elderly patient’s needs are not being met, they may try to meet their needs themselves, potentially getting out of bed or out of a wheelchair on their own and falling and breaking bones. Elderly patients also tend to have poor circulation and get cold more easily, so they need to be checked regularly to ensure they are not at risk of hypothermia. They can also develop sores from sitting or lying in the same position for too long, especially if they are unable to move safely.
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Signs of Abandonment in Nursing Homes
According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), some indications that a patient is experiencing abandonment and/or negligence in their nursing home include:
- Depression and confusion
- A messy appearance with unwashed hair and dirty clothing
- Acts withdrawn for no reason
- Unexpected weight loss
- Develops preventable conditions like bedsores
- Stops participating in activities they previously enjoyed
What You Can Do if You Suspect Abandonment
If you suspect that your loved one is suffering from abandonment and/or neglect in their nursing home, start by talking to them right away to confirm your suspicions. Depending on the signs you are seeing, there may be an explanation. In some cases, it can simply be that your loved one is aging.
However, it is important to know that if someone is neglecting your loved one, the mistreatment will not stop on its own. Elderly people are often too ashamed or simply unable to report that they are being treated poorly. If they suffered physical injuries like bedsores because of the abandonment, make sure they receive immediate medical attention.
In most cases, you will want to remove your loved one from the negligent nursing home immediately. Carefully read the reviews of any facilities before placing them into a new and hopefully safer environment. Communicate what happened to a doctor or counselor so that your loved one can get the physical and mental help they need. You should also report the neglect to the police, so they can ensure that other patients are safe.
A nursing home abuse lawyer who works on abandonment and negligence cases and understands how to gather the necessary evidence can be a valuable resource to you as well. While your legal team pursues compensation for your loved one’s injuries, you can focus on helping them heal.
To schedule a free, no-risk review of your case, contact Ben Crump Law, PLLC today at (800) 959-1444.