When families place a loved one in a nursing home or other skilled care facility, they generally do so with the assumption that it’s the best place for that individual to get the care and attention they need – but unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, about 10% of older adults experience some kind of abuse, frequently at the hands of staff at skilled care facilities. That’s why, when families choose to make use of nursing homes, they need to be vigilant and monitor their relatives for potential signs of harm.
One of the most common ways in which seniors living in nursing homes are harmed is through neglect, which may or may not be intentional. Many nursing homes have insufficient staffing, which means that those on-duty may not have time to perform key activities, such as rotating patients in bed to prevent bedsores or properly bathing and feeding patients. Nursing homes with lower staffing ratios are also more likely to make medication errors or sedate patients to make them easier to manage. Families should be alert to the development of bedsores or repeated infections, as well as overmedication, as these may indicate a serious facility issue.
Medicare is making an effort to address improper staffing ratios, in part by ordering a larger portion of inspections to take place on weekends. Nursing homes are much more likely to be understaffed on weekends, and may only have orderlies on duty, with no RNs there to support patient care. The VA is also making efforts to improve transparency at their care homes, as patients in these facilities are especially vulnerable to uncontrolled pain and bedsores, among other complaints.
Beyond Bumps And Bruises
While bedsores and infections are obvious signs that something has gone awry at a nursing facility, bumps and bruises can be much more subtle, particularly since many seniors have delicate skin or may be on blood thinners that increase the risk of bruising. That being said, most nursing homes lack the necessary staff to move patients safely, whether this is helping them walk safely between spaces, lifting patients in bed, or helping them bathe.
If you’ve noticed unusual or severe bruising or other injuries on an elderly loved one residing in a nursing home, you should certainly ask them about the injuries. However, not all seniors are capable of or willing to discuss these harms. Whatever you’re able to learn about the source of injury, though, you can also take steps to seek justice for your loved one. Personal injury lawyers specializing in nursing home abuse can help you investigate conditions and determine whether the situation calls for legal action.
Raising The Alarm
Nursing home abuse can be prevented if you know the signs, but it takes alert and an involved family to raise the alarm. In addition to watching for the above-mentioned issues, families should also look for changes in personality and behavior, such as fear around staff, missing possessions, changes to financial accounts, weight loss, and torn or dirty clothing.
Extreme wandering or elopement – a behavior that is common among individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia – can also indicate negligence and understaffing. The facility should be structurally, and in-terms of staffing, able to prevent patients from wandering off. Yet, as occurred at one Georgia facility, a patient was able to climb out her window and make her way to nearby train tracks, endangering her life.
Our seniors deserve better care than our nursing facilities currently provide, and their families are best equipped to prevent harm. Families must remain alert to potential mistreatment and protect their loved ones – up to and including pulling them from facilities and taking legal action against the provider. Better care is possible, but only if there are consequences for negligent providers.