Neglect is a form of elder abuse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), neglect is the failure to meet an older adult’s essential needs, including nutrients, hygiene, and medical care.
Neglect in nursing homes may be all too common. A study cited by the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), found that in a survey of 2,000 nursing home residents, 95 percent said they had been neglected or witnessed another resident being neglected. Another 44 percent said they had been the victim of some other form of abuse.
Sometimes, nursing home neglect is not intentional. Unintentional neglect can happen when a nursing home is understaffed, the staff is overworked, or the staff has not been properly trained.
No matter the cause, neglect can result in suffering, which is something no one wants their loved one to experience. When we place our loved one, parent, or spouse in a nursing home, we are putting our trust in that facility to meet their needs. When that trust is violated, it can be devastating.
To protect your loved one, it is important to recognize the signs of nursing home neglect.
Nursing Home Neglect
If you believe your loved one is not getting the high level of care you want them to receive, look out for warning signs that may point to neglect, including:
- Lack of mobility assistance: Bruises, fractures, repeated falls, and other accidents may be signs that your loved one is not getting the mobility assistance they need to move around safely. Bedsores could indicate your loved one is being improperly positioned or is not being frequently moved.
- Poor hygiene: Dirty hair and clothing, dental health issues, infrequent bathing, and lack of bathing assistance are all signs your loved one’s hygiene needs could be neglected.
- Lack of assistance toileting: Frequent accidents could be a sign your loved one is not being provided help using the restroom. Failing to change soiled clothing and diapers also are warning signs of neglect.
- Malnutrition and dehydration: If your loved one suffered from malnourishment or dehydration, it could indicate their nursing home is neglecting to provide them with the required amounts of food and drink. It could also be a sign that residents are not being given needed help eating and drinking.
You should also pay attention to the conditions of the facility itself and the staff’s behavior. Constantly ringing phones and unanswered resident call buttons could be signs that the nursing home is not adequately staffed.
Other warning signs of a poorly run nursing home may include a high staff turnover, frantic or disorganized workers, and a lack of facility improvements. When you ask questions about your loved one’s care, their caregivers should be able to provide you with an answer. If you feel your questions are being deflected, it could be another red flag.
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Nursing Home Abuse
In addition to neglect, the CDC recognizes several other forms of abuse:
- Physical abuse: The use of violence or physical force against a resident.
- Sexual abuse: Any unwanted sexual contact, including sexual coercion or sexual harassment.
- Emotional or psychological abuse: The use of verbal or non-verbal behaviors to humiliate, belittle, disrespect, or harass a resident. Emotional abuse could also include physical or social isolation or threats of punishment or deprivation.
- Financial abuse: The unauthorized, illegal use of a resident’s financial assets.
Abuse can have many of the same physical warning signs as neglect, but you should also be aware of any of the following behavioral changes:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Acting withdrawn
- Signs of trauma, such as rocking back and forth
- Acting violent or aggressive
- Losing interest in activities they once enjoyed
What to Do When You Suspect Neglect or Abuse
If you believe your loved one shows signs of nursing home neglect or nursing home abuse, you can take action. You should document any incidents in a detailed written report with the nursing home’s administration. Because abuse and neglect can be criminal, you may wish to make a complaint with law enforcement.
In many states, nursing homes are regulated and licensed by the department of health. Reach out to your state’s department to learn more about filing an official complaint. You can also contact adult protective services or an organization that advocates for the elderly.
You might also want to speak to an attorney about your legal options. A lawyer with Ben Crump Law, PLLC may be able to help you investigate your claims of neglect and help you seek justice for your loved one. For more information, call our office at 800-959-1444 for your risk-free consultation.