When loved ones go to nursing homes the elders’ families often take on the unexpected job of abuse-spotting. Of course, in a normal environment, the nursing home staff should fill this role. But about half of all nursing care facilities are dangerously understaffed. As a result, many times, the staff lacks the training or expertise to detect early signs of serious illness; in other cases, management does not give the staff the tools they need (mainly time) to do their jobs the way they know they should.
By recognizing the signs of nursing home abuse and neglect, vigilant family members can sometimes force nursing homes to address minor problems before they become serious injuries. However, it is the nursing home that has a legal duty in these situations, and victims are eligible for compensation if nursing homes breach that duty.
Evidence of Neglect
Both federal and state governments have high standards in place for facilities that accept Medicaid and Medicare, and that includes nursing homes. Unfortunately, rules alone are sometimes not enough to protect our loved ones. So, during your visits, there are some signs of abuse to look out for:
- Unexplained Falls: If a resident has bruises or other injuries on the arms or buttocks and the medical chart does not indicate that a fall or other injury occurred, there may be cause for concern.
- Sporadic Care: Similarly, alarm bells should sound if your visit lasts more than two or three hours and a staff member only appears once, or not at all.
- Rails and Bed Height: Higher bed heights should be explained and justified as they can present a significant hazard should your loved one fall. The rails should be on their lowest setting and the bed should be close to the floor.
- Malnutrition/Weight Loss: If the resident has lost weight or seems constantly thirsty, it may be time to ask questions.
An oft-repeated quote from British writer Ian Fleming (“Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, and three times is enemy action”) only applies in these cases. One isolated incident is probably not tantamount to abuse, but if there is more than one sign, it is probably a good idea to ask for medical records and begin asking questions. If the nursing home is at all evasive, or if the answers are at all out of place, you should contact an experienced nursing home neglect attorney such as Laurie Robbins.