Signs of Abuse and Neglect in Care Facilities
Nursing home and care facility abuse and neglect are real. Learn the questions to ask to check your loved one is safe, and learn what to do if you suspect abuse.
Best known for its application to physicians, the Hippocratic Oath has an overriding mission to “do no harm.” While all variants of senior care facilities (such as nursing homes) and communities (like Assisted Living and Memory Care Communities) have a range of employees, from administration to resident care technicians, the goal to offer care and support without harm and discomfort is the same. Every process should be in sync, to not only meet the minimum standards of care, but to exceed those standards whenever possible.
However, anyone who watches or reads local news is well aware of facilities that do not uphold these standards, either by mistake or even worse, by neglect. This results in unacceptable mistreatment of seniors, and betrayal of the families who put their trust in irresponsible care teams. Because of the possibility of neglect and even abuse, it’s important to recognize signs of mistreatment, from broken bones and bruises to poor hygiene. We’ll address what to look for and what to do if you suspect abuse and neglect is occurring.
What is Considered Nursing Home Neglect?
While the term “nursing home neglect and abuse” specifically implies actual nursing homes, most people recognize the definition when it comes to mistreatment in any senior living location.
Examples of Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes
Nursing home neglect, in many states, is defined as not addressing basic needs in a senior living setting. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate neglect can include failing to meet essential needs such as water, food, clothing, hygiene, shelter, and in the case of communities – essential medical care.
Nursing home abuse (or abuse in any senior living setting) goes hand-in-hand with neglect, and there are many varieties, including physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological abuse. This includes pain and injury, unwanted sexual contact, the infliction of verbal and nonverbal abuse, and humiliation.
In professional, upstanding senior living communities, none of this will be tolerated and preventive measures are put in place to keep seniors safe.
What Causes Nursing Home Neglect?
Frankly, it’s an anguish-inducing nightmare to learn that the trust of a so-called “care provider” has been compromised. While there are many causes of nursing home neglect, none are ever the responsibility of the senior or their family.
Examples may include:
- Short staffing.
- A lack of training for staff.
- Underpaid staff and minimal benefits.
- Poor hiring procedures.
- Inadequate facilities, equipment, and resources.
- Oversight issues.
Referah only partners with communities who perform to the highest standards of care and are dedicated to ongoing review and compliance for all community levels. There is zero reason to accept less in any community setting. The ongoing evaluation processes help to ease the natural anxiety experienced by the resident and their family members.
Even when standards are excellent, your visits also play a vital role in keeping your loved one happy. View our next article “Best Memory Games for Seniors” to learn about fun and effective “brain exercises” to stay connected and enjoy your visits together.
How to Notice Signs of Abuse and Neglect
When looking out for the best interests of a senior in a care community, it is important to stay aware of their behavior and appearance. First and foremost, it is crucial to know what the resident rights in senior living communities are. And once you are familiar with them, it becomes earier to know what you should look for. So, how do you discern whether a subtle change is to be expected, or indicative of abuse?
Always start by talking to your loved one. Questions may include:
- “Have they changed your sheets today?”
- “When did you last brush your teeth or take a bath?”
- “Are you wearing clean clothes?”
- “Did you go for a walk and participate in an activity today?”
- “How’s the food and did you get enough to eat?”
If the senior is bedridden, it’s critical to ask patient care technicians the following:
- Do they visit regularly to shift the senior into more comfortable positions and help eliminate bedsores?
- Are medications being administered at the same times daily to meet physician directives?
- Has the senior experienced any infections, either internal or due to skin problems?
- Is there always ample water or juice to ensure good hydration?
- What dietary issues have occurred? If none, ask what has been served to confirm.
A consultation with a primary care physician or nurse practitioner will help you develop a basic checklist of questions to ask that are specific to your family member. Each person is different, as are the medications and protocols that the medical team has developed to yield the best possible results. Talk with the care team; the perspective of a family member can be of immense value to them.
What to Do If You Suspect Nursing Home Neglect or Abuse
Loneliness is a sad reality for many seniors who experience neglect. Even worse is the feeling of being “held hostage” if staff fails to provide basic socialization, which is a critical need for anyone. Conversely, seniors should be encouraged to take advantage of the socialization that’s available – even those who wish to “just be left alone” are dodging what is most likely a huge benefit to their overall physical and mental health.
So what do you do, if you suspect abuse? In a society where many immediately pursue costly legal action, often, having a conversation with staff is the most important first step to address concerns. It saves time and, in many cases, (where care is handled professionally), documentation and real-time transparent information will be available to provide a sense of relief.
When transparency is withheld and fear of neglect or abuse prevails, there are many effective solutions, such as:
- Contacting the ombudsman; each community has the number for the ombudsman posted.
- Reporting abuse and neglect to state agencies like your Department of Aging.
- Contacting authorities and emergency services when warranted.
- Contacting a nursing home abuse attorney.
No one should suffer in silence, so talk with your loved one and their care teams, and act quickly when necessary.
Find Professional, Dedicated Senior Care Near You
Talk with the Referah Family Connection Agents to find high-quality care for your loved one. Our team will work with you to find a professional senior living community that meets your needs and is properly equipped with staff and resources to provide first-class care. We rely on our trusted partners to provide you with reputable communities across the country that are ready to welcome seniors home. Find a community today!