Nursing homes play a vital role in caring for our aging population. For many seniors, nursing homes provide a safe environment where they can receive medical care, socialize, and enjoy their golden years. However, some nursing homes fail to uphold adequate standards of care, resulting in neglect and even abuse of residents.
It is estimated that around 1 in 3 nursing homes in the United States have been cited for violations relating to neglect, such as understaffing, improper medication management, and failure to prevent bedsores. This neglect can have devastating consequences for residents.
Understanding the warning signs of nursing home neglect is crucial, as it allows families to take action before harm occurs. Read on to stay informed and protect your loved ones.
1. Understaffing Is a Major Contributor
Nursing homes are legally required to maintain adequate staffing levels at all times to properly care for residents. However, understaffing runs rampant throughout the industry. Staff shortages inevitably lead to rushed, low-quality care and an inability to provide basic services that residents depend on.
If you notice any red flags that point to understaffing, bring your concerns to the management right away. Most states have hotlines where you can call to launch an investigation. You should also file a report directly with the nursing home administrator. If you believe legal action is necessary, resources like www.lawfirm.com can guide you on steps to take and connect you with experienced attorneys.
Nursing home residents are vulnerable and cannot always advocate for themselves, so families need to be their voice. Your reports of suspected neglect, abuse, or exploitation can spur improved care, accountability, and prevention of further harm.
2. Bedsores Can Indicate Neglect
Bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers, are a common problem among nursing home residents. These painful sores develop when someone is left lying or sitting in one position for too long without being repositioned. This constant pressure cuts off blood flow to the area, killing skin and tissue.
Nursing home residents are especially vulnerable to bedsores due to limited mobility. However, bedsores are also largely preventable through proper repositioning and skin inspections every 2 hours. If a loved one develops severe, deep sores or multiple bedsores, it likely indicates staff are neglecting to reposition them adequately.
Left untreated, bedsores can lead to life-threatening infections. They can penetrate down to the bone. Signs of possible bedsore neglect include sores that are left to worsen without treatment or the development of new sores shortly after admission. Be sure to inspect skin regularly, especially over bony areas. Any bedsores warrant immediate attention.
3. Rapid Weight Loss in Residents
When nursing home residents experience sudden or rapid weight loss without explanation, this may indicate neglect. Unintended weight loss is often a sign that staff are failing to properly feed, hydrate, and assist residents at meal times.
If a resident needs help eating and drinking due to disability, but staff do not feed them fully at each meal, malnutrition and dehydration can ensue. Likewise, if food and drinks are placed out of reach or meals are rushed, cognitive decline prevents residents from eating, resulting in weight loss.
Unexplained weight loss should be reported to the facility immediately so the cause can be investigated. If neglect is suspected, staff should implement a care plan to provide assisted feeding and closely monitor the resident’s nutritional intake until weight stabilizes. Failing to address weight loss places residents at risk of starvation.
4. Medication Errors
In nursing homes, providing medications to residents on time and accurately is a major responsibility of staff. However, when staff are rushed, undertrained, or overburdened, errors can easily occur. Residents may be given the wrong dosage of medication, the wrong medication entirely, or a medication at the wrong time. Additionally, errors like missed doses or expired drugs are all too common as well.
Medication errors jeopardize residents’ health. Watch for any sudden onset of new symptoms or a decline in your loved one’s condition. Dizziness, rashes, confusion, nausea, and breathing issues can all indicate the occurrence of medication errors. Make sure to review medication logs regularly to double-check proper administration. Speak up right away if you suspect any mistakes.
5. Poor Hygiene
Maintaining good personal hygiene is an essential part of quality care for nursing home residents. Residents should be bathed and have linens changed regularly to stay clean. They also need assistance brushing their teeth, combing hair, trimming nails, and shaving.
When staff neglect basic hygiene care, residents may have body odor, soiled clothes, unkempt hair, and dirty fingernails. Lack of oral care can cause tooth decay and gum infections. Failure to bathe residents thoroughly can lead to skin breakdown.
If your loved one appears persistently unclean and disheveled, promptly report it to the management, as this signals neglect of their hygiene needs. Residents deserve regular assistance with bathing, grooming, and oral care. Do not simply dismiss poor hygiene as inevitable.
6. Behavior Changes May Indicate Distress
For nursing home residents, sudden behavioral changes like increased confusion, agitation, withdrawal, or depression can signify an underlying issue. While some causes, like dementia progression, are unavoidable, staff should still determine if other factors are at play.
For instance, agitation or aggression may stem from untreated pain, discomfort, hunger, or the need to use the bathroom. Depression can be caused by emotional distress from staff neglect or loneliness. Medication side effects can also spark personality changes.
Staff should attempt to pinpoint causes and remedy them through pain management, redirection, activities, or medication adjustments. Behavior changes should serve as warning signs to investigate further. Expressing concerns can help improve your loved one’s quality of life.
7. Lack of Supervision Puts Residents at Risk
Nursing home residents who are frail, have dementia, or are at high fall risk need vigilant supervision for their safety. Leaving them alone for long periods can lead to dangerous accidents, injuries, wandering, and escape attempts. Excessive bruising, cuts, fractures, or head injuries may also indicate a lack of supervision.
Always check that the facility has adequate staffing to monitor residents requiring one-on-one supervision.
8. Warning Signs of Emotional Abuse
Along with physical neglect, nursing home residents may also endure emotional abuse from impatient staff. This can take the form of yelling, insults, threats, intimidation, humiliation, or isolation.
Signs a loved one may be suffering emotional abuse include sudden changes in mood like fear, anxiety, sadness, or withdrawal after interactions with certain staff. Expressions of not wanting to be touched by some caregivers can also be telling.
Emotional abuse has serious psychological consequences for victims. While it can be more subtle than physical abuse, it is still extremely damaging. Families should watch for red flags and support loved ones in speaking up.
Nursing home neglect remains an ongoing issue that often goes unreported. Being attentive to these signs and speaking up at the first hint of neglect is key to protecting your loved ones. By staying informed and working together to uphold care standards, we can provide our seniors with the care, respect, and dignity they deserve.