We expect the nursing home to provide our loved ones with attentive and competent care. But you see stories all too often of elderly patients who have been shamefully neglected or mistreated in unspeakable ways.
The nursing home staff may be all smiles when you visit, but what happens when you aren’t around? Many long-term care facilities genuinely strive to keep residents safe and happy. But you need to be vigilant for signs of negligence, neglect or abuse.
Watch for these 5 red flags that something’s not right
Here are some tell-tale signs of abuse or neglect to be on the lookout for when you visit your spouse or family member in the nursing home:
Mysterious injuries — Although accidents happen, such as when an elderly individual falls down, an unexplained injury is one that should raise a red flag. Broken bones, lacerations and bruises should have an explanation. In fact, family members should be notified of injuries or serious illness.
Neglected hygiene — Nursing home residents are not always able to care for themselves, which is why they are in a long-term care facility in the first place. Poor personal hygiene is a definite sign of neglect. It can also indicate depression or other response to abuse. Is your loved one normally clean and well-groomed?
Unsanitary conditions — Although federal law mandates a “safe, sanitary and comfortable environment” that is not always the case in nursing homes. If the rooms and hallways look unkempt, it may also be an indication of patient neglect or unsanitary medical practices that can lead to infections.
Malnourishment — While there is no way to make a person eat, nursing homes should provide nutritious options to ensure that its residents are given every opportunity to live the life they deserve. Some patients require assistance with eating and drinking because of poor vision, tremors or weakened limbs. Has your loved one lost weight? Do they complain of hunger or thirst?
Loss of mobility — The best nursing homes have programs and policies to encourage residents to move around, even if it’s a challenge. If the facility rarely provides exercise and activities, residents can lose muscle mass and bone density, which also puts them at greater risk of a dangerous fall. Patients also suffer mental atrophy when they are not regularly engaged.
These are just a few of the common signs of nursing home neglect and abuse. If you have reason to believe your loved one is not receiving the care he or she should, you need to learn more about the facility with an eye toward any issues that are causing trouble. From there, if you find something is “off,” it’s time to take action by speaking with a supervisor and learning more about your legal rights.