5 (Unexpected) Signs of Nursing Home Neglect
Long-term care facilities like nursing homes are home for almost two million Americans.
While the vast majority provide a much-needed high quality of service, reports of neglect of patients are quite common. Many other cases are not reported.
Nursing home neglect can be intentional or unintentional and it is defined as the following:
“A failure, intentional or not, to provide a person with the care and services necessary to ensure freedom from harm or pain; a failure to react to a potentially dangerous situation resulting in resident harm or anxiety.”
Neglect can occur even in top-quality nursing homes and is often a result of poorly trained or overworked staff or limited resources.
Whatever the reason, it should not be tolerated and it’s important to call it out when observed. Left unreported, it can lead to injury, hospitalization, or even death of patients.
So, what should you look for if you’re trying to protect a friend, relative, or other loved one from the emotional and physical stress that neglect in a nursing home can cause?
Below are the five main signs of neglect to keep a lookout for.
Bedsores (pressure ulcers) are injuries to the skin that result from lack of movement.
When someone is kept in the same position for a lengthy period of time (usually in bed or wheelchair) shallow wounds may result.
If left untreated, these can develop into deeper and more serious sores that cause significant pain and discomfort. They can take many weeks or even months to heal properly and may become seriously infected without specialist treatment.
If an elderly or sick patient in a nursing home is not given the assistance they need, pressure on the skin from lack of movement leads to bedsores.
The major signs of bedsores to look out for include:
- Redness in the affected area
- Skin that is tender to the touch
- A visible open sore
- Skin that is hot to the touch
Report any of these signs to the nursing home authorities.
If they fail to remedy the situation, you may need to take legal action. Speak with a specialist bedsore attorney.
Another of the most obvious signs of nursing home neglect is poor sanitary conditions.
This could relate to the condition of the room in which the patient stays, the bed in which they sleep or the personal hygiene of patients themselves.
There are no excuses for unsanitary conditions and it is a sure sign of neglect.
People in nursing homes are often elderly, sick or mentally impaired. They are incapable of bathing themselves or performing essential daily self-care activities like washing and brushing teeth, etc.
If you sense any of the following, it should be immediately noted:
- Soiled bedding and/or clothes
- Poor personal hygiene – lack of bathing
- Unpleasant smells
These create unsafe and unhygienic conditions that are not acceptable in a nursing home.
Unusual weight loss
Unusual weight loss may be a sign of malnutrition or lack of attention to diet. This can have serious consequences in sick or elderly people.
Weight loss may be associated with many medical conditions and is therefore sometimes difficult to pinpoint as a sign of neglect.
However, patients in nursing homes should reasonably expect to receive sufficient nutrition and hydration to maintain a good body weight in relation to their condition.
Failure to meet this basic level of dietary requirement amounts to serious neglect that needs following up on with the authorities at the nursing home.
It is not only existing medical conditions that should be of concern if there is neglect occurring within a nursing home.
The environment may also be contributing to poor health and lead to a variety of illnesses.
This is especially concerning in cases where the home does not report these illnesses to the physician and the family of the patient.
The nursing home may be trying to cover up the fact that not enough care is being taken to ensure the safety of residents.
Unsafe living conditions
Patient safety should come first in nursing homes.
If there is any evidence of unsafe living conditions, such as lack of heat, a lack of hot and cold running water, faulty electrical wiring, or fire hazards, it is putting patient safety at risk.
Also, the patient should be dressed properly for the conditions. A lack of warm clothing in winter for the resident or otherwise unsuitable clothing when you visit is a sign of neglect that needs to be corrected.
Seen signs of neglect at your nursing home?
Lack of care should be hard to accept if your friend, relative, or loved one is the victim in a nursing home.
Understanding the five main signs of neglect, as detailed above, should help you identify it, if it occurs.
Remember, whatever the circumstances, the nursing home is responsible for looking after the welfare of the patients in their charge. It is their duty to provide an acceptable level of care, no matter how short staffed they are or how thinly resources are spread.
The patients are, in many cases, unable to speak for themselves or fight back if they are neglected so the responsibility to speak out may lie with you.
If you have seen examples of neglect, raise the issues with the nursing home and, if they are not immediately remedied, speak to an experienced lawyer.