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Recognize the risk of abuse at your parents' nursing home

In a perfect world, anywhere your parents go for medical help and support as they age would be clean, friendly and accommodating. The staff should have experience and love the job. That's not how the world works, though, and there are cases in which people get hurt or even killed while in a nursing home. You worry about your parents, and it's good to keep out a watchful eye. Here are a few ways to recognize if nursing home abuse could be a risk at the facility you use.

1. The facility is understaffed.

The first sign that something could go wrong at a facility is not seeing enough staff members. It's hard enough for nurses to care for three or four patients, let alone for one nurse to care for an entire wing. The best nursing facilities have a small patient-to-staff ratio, making sure your parents get the help and care they need.

2. The facility smells or is unclean

You'll notice immediately upon entering a facility how clean it's kept. Are windows opened to let in fresh air? What about cleaning the carpets or cleaning up messes? Residents who have a particular odor should throw up a red flag, too. When residents have poor hygiene, it's typically a result of a lack of care.

3. The staff has a negative attitude

Everyone has a bad day, but when you work with vulnerable patients, you have to put your own feelings aside and get the job done. If you find that your parents' facility has an overriding bad attitude, it may benefit you to move your parents elsewhere. Residents need to feel comfortable and protected, not like they're a burden to staff members.

4. The staff won't communicate

Along the same line of thinking, it's important for staff members to communicate. Did your mother fall down? Why? The staff should clearly identify what happened and how to prevent it in the future. If the staff hides errors or tries to prevent you from seeing neglect, that's a sign that something isn't quite right.

If you find that your parents aren't treated appropriately, it's important to file a claim. Talk to the management at the facility first. Sometimes, the nursing home director has the power to do something about the problem or can reprimand or fire an employee. If there's a serious issue, like your loved one being attacked or left without food, you can speak with a legal professional to talk about your legal options. No one should have to live in fear or be neglected.

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