According to the CDC, there’s more than half a million reports of elderly abuse each year. And we can only estimate that thousands more are unreported. If you have a parent or relative in a nursing home, it’s extremely important that you can pick up on any warning signs that they may be experiencing nursing home neglect or nursing home abuse.
When patients aren’t turned/repositioned periodically in their beds, they may develop bed sores. These sores are a symptom of a lack of hygiene and abrasive bed sheets, which can wear away skin and allow for the growth of bacteria. The more the skin wears away and the more bacteria grows, the greater the chance of bed sores becoming infected. Bed sores can be fatal if left untreated. If a relative of yours is in a nursing home and complains of sores, this is red flag that they aren’t getting the essential care they require from the staff.
Since many elders are debilitated or bedridden, it’s up to the staff to make sure they are hydrated. The more a patient is dehydrated, the weaker they become, leaving them prone to infections and viruses that are pervasive in nursing home environments.
Malnutrition can do the same. Malnutrition can occur in a patient when he or she receives only foods with little-to-no essential nutrients or not enough food in general. They may have dental problems or trouble swallowing, making it difficult to eat. It’s the job of the nursing home’s staff to recognize when a patient is not eating food. If you recognize that a relative in a nursing home significantly drops weight, gains weight, or is often sickly or weak, this may be a sign of dehydration or malnutrition.
Elders often have difficulty standing and walking without assistance. They may need to go to the bathroom, and without proper assistance, they may try to go alone, resulting in a fall. Spilled liquids are also a common cause of slips or falls. If you have a relative in a nursing home who has slipped or fallen, this could be nursing home neglect.
Sometimes, it’s necessary for a nursing home’s staff to restrain a patient for their own safety and wellbeing. For example, debilitated patients may try to get up and walk, which could lead to a bad fall. Patients with dementia may wander off the premises, which could lead to a seriously dangerous situation.
Usually, restraints in a nursing home include vests, belts, wheelchairs, tightly tucked sheets/blankets, and tipped chairs. But these restraints are only to be used for the safety of the patient (which is the law). Unfortunately, these restraints may be misused by hospital staff. Staff members may restrain patients solely because they don’t want the bother of assisting them in moving around. Sometimes, when a nursing home is inadequately staffed, staff members might restrain a set of patients so they can assist other patients. This is nursing home abuse.
It’s absolutely horrifying to believe, but lazy, uncaring or malicious staff members may use violence as a means of subduing a patient as opposed to tending to a patient’s cries for help or striking them to so they fear asking for help. Some staff members also use violence as a means of punishment. Sexual abuse, as difficult as it is to fathom, but it does happen.
Nursing homes are subject to medical malpractice. They provide medical care and allow outside physicians to provide care. Denial of a patient’s medications, incorrect dosing of medication, failure to provide medical tests and examinations when necessary, misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose a medical illness are all forms of medical malpractice.
All of these could very well be signs of nursing home neglect or abuse.