We all want the best for our loved ones, so when we choose a nursing home, we want to know that our parent, spouse, or other family members will receive the highest degree of care. There are about 15,600 licensed nursing homes in the United States, so how can you be sure you have selected a high-quality facility?
You can pick up on the warning signs that your loved one may not have received the care they need and deserve. Poor hygiene in nursing homes is one of those signs. A lack of cleanliness can lead to serious health issues and could also indicate nursing home abuse.
The Dangers of Poor Hygiene
Poor physical hygiene can cause many health problems, especially in older adults. A lack of personal cleanliness can cause infections, parasites, and skin diseases. According to the Mayo Clinic, poor dental hygiene could lead to severe conditions like cardiovascular disease and pneumonia.
Signs of Poor Hygiene
When you visit your loved one, they should appear clean and tidy. Dirty hair or unwashed clothing are signs that the staff might have neglected their hygiene. Caregivers should never leave residents who need assistance toileting in soiled diapers or clothing. Frequent bedsores could point to a lack of changing soiled clothing or not repositioning often enough in a chair or bed.
Your loved one should receive regular bathing and receive assistance to do so, if needed. If you notice a lack of cleanliness and basic grooming, it could indicate more severe problems with your loved one’s care. Frequently, poor hygiene in nursing homes is a sign of nursing home abuse.
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Nursing Home Abuse
Sadly, nursing home abuse happens more often than you may think. One survey of 2,000 nursing home residents found that 44 percent had suffered abuse, while 95 percent had been victims of neglect or witnessed it with another resident. Another study found that more than 50 percent of nursing home staff admitted to mistreating residents during the previous year.
The problem of nursing home abuse is likely to increase as our population rapidly ages. Globally, the number of older adults is on the rise. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the number of people aged 60 and over worldwide will double from 900 million in 2015 to about two billion in 2050.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), common types of elder abuse include:
- Physical abuse: Hitting, kicking, pushing, or any other physical violence intentionally inflicted on a resident.
- Emotional (psychological) abuse: Name-calling, harassing, humiliating, or berating a resident. Emotional abuse can also include isolating or ignoring a resident, or threatening harm or punishment.
- Sexual abuse: Any forced or unwanted sexual interaction, including sexual harassment.
- Financial abuse: The illegal use of a resident’s money, property, benefits, or other assets.
- Neglect: The intentional or unintentional failure to meet a resident’s basic needs for essentials like food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and hygiene. Sometimes, neglect is the result of understaffing, or overworked or poorly trained staff.
Often, nursing home residents have chronic physical or cognitive health issues that make them particularly vulnerable to abuse. Conditions like functional impairment and dementia could make residents entirely dependent upon staff for their care, and they might be afraid or unable to report mistreatment because of that dependence.
In addition to poor hygiene, you might see other indications that your loved one has experienced abuse. Be alert for the following physical signs:
- Unexplained cuts, burns, bruises, or other injuries
- Lack of mobility assistance
- Weight loss
- Excessive instances of falls and accidents
Changes in their behavior also could indicate nursing home abuse, including:
- Acting violent or aggressive
- Becoming withdrawn
- No longer participating in activities they once enjoyed
There also are warning signs that the nursing home itself displays, such as:
- High staff turnover
- Unanswered phones and call bells
- Disorganized and frantic staff
- Lack of improvements in the facility
What to Do if You Suspect Abuse
Nursing home abuse is wrong, and you should never tolerate it. If you believe your loved one shows signs of abuse or neglect, you should document all instances in a detailed, dated, written report, which you should submit to the nursing home’s administration.
Nursing home abuse is illegal. You might want to make a complaint to your local law enforcement agency. You can also file a report with your state’s regulatory agency for nursing homes (often, the health department), adult protective services, or an agency that advocates against elder abuse. If you witness abuse as it is happening, or the situation is an emergency, call 911.
Ben Crump Law, PLLC
Poor hygiene in nursing homes is a red flag. If you believe your loved one’s facility has not met their hygiene needs, it could indicate nursing home abuse or neglect. A nursing home abuse attorney might be able to help you investigate conditions and seek justice. You can learn more about your legal options by contacting the team at Ben Crump Law, PLLC, at 800-959-1444. Call today to get started.