After you’ve made the difficult decision to put a loved one in a nursing home, you’re putting your trust in the staff to make sure he or she is well-cared for.
But if you discover on a visit that something isn’t right, and your questions go unanswered, what do you do next?
Signs Of Nursing Home Neglect
Although not all cases may be nursing home neglect, these are some of the signs you should pay attention to:
- Malnutrition and/or dehydration. Because many nursing homes have high turnover of nursing and care staff, or are regularly experience inadequate staff, residents may not always have what they need. Malnutrition and dehydration can also lead to further physical problems as well as conditions like depression.
- Lack of personal hygiene. Many residents need help with basics, such as dressing, bathing, brushing their teeth, etc. When left without help, these residents will attempt to take care of things by themselves, but are unable to do so. This is common in facilities where staffing is inadequate.
- Lack of proper sanitation. Nursing homes are required by law to provide safe and clean living conditions for residents. Your loved one should have clean clothing and bedding, a clean bathroom facility, and a sanitary kitchen. Neglect of these areas can lead to health problems and illness.
- Unexplained injuries. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that about 1,800 nursing home residents experience a fall every year, and on average, fall more than twice a year. Although the falls are not always a sign of neglect, residents left without needed assistance may attempt to walk or do things on their own, leading to a fall.
- Fear, anxiety, and other psychological issues. Residents may fear speaking out about neglect or other issues, become fearful of caregivers and staff, and become withdrawn from friends and family. These issues should be addressed promptly, before they begin to neglect themselves.
The National Adult Protective Services Association offers additional information on neglect as well as other concerns related to elderly adults, and the CDC also has additional resources on its website.
Of course, the first thing to do is ask the staff questions about how your loved one is doing. Ask about any injuries or other lapses in care that may be the result of neglect. Take notes of names, dates and times that you spoke with these individuals. Be respectful and calm when speaking with staff, and listen to their side of the story without commenting.If your loved one is able to speak, ask him or her questions about the care they are receiving privately, and without the presence of staff members. Do they have what they need? Are they being given adequate water and nutrition? You should also take notes of these conversations, and consider recording them so that their testimony is in their own voice. However, many residents may be reluctant to discuss possible neglect for fear of retaliation, or because they “don’t want to worry you.” If you are not allowed to speak privately with your loved one, this may be an indicator to step up your actions.If you are able to speak with other (coherent) residents about your loved one and they are willing to discuss your loved one, do so. Get their names and stories as well and keep notes (or recordings) of their side of the story.Depending on the facility, you may or may not receive the answers you’re looking for. However, it’s not a good idea to “wait and see” if you believe your loved one is in danger at this facility.
What To Do Next
If your loved one is in immediate danger that is life threatening, call 911 immediately. At the very least, you’ll be asked to file a complaint. Your loved one may be moved into a different facility for their own safety as well.The Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services also has an ombudsman program, as well as additional information. They can be reached by calling (800) 309-3282 or by email, LTCOmbudsman@health.mo.gov.The National Center on Elder Abuse and the Eldercare website have additional information for families of elders and nursing home residents who need help.You should also consult with a Kansas City nursing home attorney who can help you take action against the facility and ensure that your loved one receives justice, as well as possible compensation.
A Voice For Kansas City’s Most Vulnerable
When an elderly nursing home resident can’t or won’t speak up for themselves, they need you to be their voice. Reporting nursing home neglect, abuse or other problems with a nursing home and taking aggressive action is the best way to put a stop to it, especially if the resident can’t speak for him or herself.The Popham Law Firm protects our most vulnerable when they’re unable to. If your loved one has been neglected or harmed in a nursing home, call us at (816) 221-2288 or 1-844-243-2288, or use our online contact form to make an appointment.