Elder abuse and neglect remains a major concern throughout the United States, despite a host of laws passed to prevent our seniors from suffering mistreatment. Sadly, far too many of these instances of abuse occur in the presumably safe environment of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, though, that abuse or neglect might not always be as obvious as you might think. To make matters worse, your loved one might not inform you of the poor care. There are some signs, however, that could indicate that your beloved senior isn’t receiving the proper nursing home care.
- Changes in your loved one’s physical condition. Your loved one is often the source of the best information about the type of care that is being offered. Is your senior showing clear signs of physical damage? Are there unexplained bumps, bruises, or other injuries on his or her body? These could be signs of abuse or neglect. Exercise caution when you investigate, however, and especially in instances where the senior refuses to tell you how the injuries occurred. While that damage could be an indication of abuse or a fall, it could also just be the result of your loved one bumping into a piece of furniture. Still, that physical evidence is still worthy investigating.
- Your loved one expresses discomfort around certain staff members. This shouldn’t happen in most instances. Even in cases where dementia is a problem, most patients don’t respond in this manner to specific staff members; they generally act strangely around different staff at different times. So, if your loved one seems to be fearful of certain people all the time, there may be a reason for that discomfort.
Obviously, that discomfort and apprehension is not reason enough to accuse the nursing home of misconduct, but it should be seen as a warning sign indicating that further investigation is necessary. There may be a legitimate reason for your loved one being uncomfortable around certain people, and that can sometimes be an indication of the onset of other cognitive problems, and that alone is reason enough to look into the matter.
- Constant staff turnover. Obviously, there is turnover everywhere – and nursing home environments are inherently stressful for many nurses and other caregivers. At the same time, though, it is difficult for any staff to provide adequate care to residents when there is constant turnover. If nursing home personnel are constantly training new staff members, it’s a good bet that the newer nurses and caregivers never manage to gain any real familiarity with the needs of their patients.
- Chaos throughout the facility. If you find the facility in a state of disorder every time you visit, then that could be a bad sign. Sometimes it can be the result of poor staffing – as can occur when people call in sick and no replacements are available, but if it occurs with regularity then it may indicate a more serious concern with the level of care at the nursing home. Even in busy facilities, you should see consistent communication between staff members.
Take note of the facility’s leadership personnel too. If you never see supervisors out and about or interacting with staff and patients, that may indicate a problem too. Good leadership requires interaction and active participation in these environments. If you do see supervisors taking an active and positive role throughout the facility, then there’s a very good chance that the residents are receiving the care they need.
- Staff won’t answer your questions. If you ask staff members simple questions and they never seem to have even a simple answer in response, that should set off alarm bells in your head. The same holds true in instances where the staff dodges questions about your loved one’s care plan. The staff should be aware of the plan; if they’re not, that’s a good sign that no plan is being used and the care may be less than needed.
- Malnourishment or lack of hydration. If your loved one is losing weight or appears dehydrated, that can be a sure sign that neglect may be an issue. Meals may be inadequate, or staff may not be paying as much attention to residents as they should be. Discuss the care plan with the nursing staff or other personnel.
- Sudden withdrawal or isolation. Emotional neglect and abuse can be a real problem too. If your loved one seems less sociable than usual, and instead has become intentionally isolated from other residents or family, there may be an issue. Disrupted sleep patterns, moodiness, or increased agitation can all indicate a lack of adequate care. Again, though, these can also be symptoms common to cognitive impairment diseases like dementia, so take care while you investigate any concerns.
It is also important to take note of any apparent efforts on the part of the personnel in the facility to improve care. The best nursing homes are actively engaged in efforts to ensure that their residents receive the best care possible. They undertake safety campaigns, nutritional efforts, and other actions designed to raise the bar on the level of care they offer. As a result, those top facilities are always demonstrating improvements in one area of care or another. If your loved one’s facility seems disinterested in such efforts, chances are that you’d be better off finding him or her a new home.
At the Fouts Law Group, LLC, our elder law experts take elder care seriously. Our seniors deserve the best nursing home care they can find, and have earned something better than the indignity of physical and mental abuse or neglect. We also understand that seniors are sometimes reluctant to report poor care, so we are always here to help elderly Georgians and their families resolve questions about nursing home care. To learn more about how we can help you with issues involving proper nursing home care, or to get information about important incapacity or Medicaid planning, contact us online or call today at (678) 242-8344.
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