Caring for an older adult, especially one with extensive care needs, can be time consuming and stressful. It’s why many people choose to place elderly parents or grandparents in nursing homes where they can be professionally cared for.
But what happens when you find out the nursing home you’ve chosen begins to neglect your loved ones?
What is nursing home neglect?
Nursing home neglect is a form of elder abuse toward those living in a nursing home. When it happens, residents suffer due to poor care, ignorance, carelessness, or mistreatment. This can include failure to treat injuries or contact a doctor when needed; forgetting to regularly bath someone or change bed sheets; depriving someone of food and water; or providing someone with the wrong medications.
This type of abuse happens more often than you might think. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) reports that about 95% of nursing home residents have either been neglected or have witnessed neglect and according to the World Health Organization, 12% of employees have admitted to neglecting residents. The U.S. Department of Justice also reports that 57 cases of neglect go unreported for every one case that is reported.
What causes nursing home neglect?
The main reason for neglect stems from being understaffed. This leads to overwhelmed staff members, high levels of stress, avoidable mistakes, and burnout. Another reason is inadequate training or hiring processes, both of which may occur when a nursing home rushes to fill positions without doing proper background checks or certification screenings.
How do I know if neglect is happening?
- Malnutrition or dehydration (leading to weight or hair loss, irritability, or papery skin).
- Untreated health issues, such as bed sores, infections, and broken bones.
- Dirty appearance, soiled clothes, and other hygiene issues.
- Isolation, depression, or anxiety.
- Loss of mobility.
- Pests, mold, or other signs of an unkept residence.
- Wandering away from the facility.
What can I do to prevent nursing home neglect?
First and foremost, immediately report neglect to the authorities. Failure to report neglect could lead to other forms of elder abuse, permanent disability, and death. In many states, waiting too long can also keep you from seeking legal justice due to statutes of limitations.
Some authorities to contact include:
- Police – Can remove residents and conduct investigations into alleged neglect.
- Adult Protective Services (APS) – Can conduct welfare checks and investigate non-urgent reports of neglect.
- Long-term care ombudsman – Can address your concerns and investigate signs of neglect on your behalf.
Finally, you’ll want to contact a nursing home abuse lawyer, who will help pursue compensation for medical treatments and therapy in relation to neglect.
Other things you can do to prevent neglect is making regular calls and visits to the nursing home, watching for signs of neglect, and document everything, no matter how small or inconsequential. Most importantly, always believe your loved one when they talk about being neglected. Just because a nursing home looks good on paper, doesn’t mean it is, or that it will degrade in the future.