Hospital Neglect: 3 Symptoms You Might Miss
Patient neglect in hospitals is more common than most care to admit.
It happens intentionally and unintentionally, even in top-quality hospitals where resources can still become stretched and staff can be stressed.
Hospital neglect can lead to injury, unnecessary extra treatment, disability, or even death.
Unfortunately, millions of cases go unreported each year.
However, that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from the mistakes that are made in looking after the welfare of patients.
There are a few tell-tale signs that you can look out for when visiting people in hospital. Some of these may not be immediately apparent unless you are actively looking out for them.
To make it easier for you, we’ve identified the three leading symptoms of hospital neglect.
Bedsores are also called pressure ulcers: injuries to the skin that typically occur when someone has been in the same position without moving for an extended period of time.
They start as shallow wounds (stage one sores) but can quickly progress into deeper sores if they are not properly treated.
Serious bedsores can take months to heal properly and may cause great pain and discomfort for the patient.
Many elderly or seriously ill patients are confined to a hospital bed or wheelchair. They cannot move on their own and are reliant upon nurse or attendant assistance even to turn over in bed. This will relieve the pressure on the skin and help prevent bedsores.
When a patient fails to move frequently enough, bedsores develop and they require specialist treatment. It should not happen but it often does.
In fact, bedsores are one of the most common symptoms of neglect in hospitals, nursing homes, and in-home care.
Bedsores may be present if you observe:
- Swelling in the irritated area
- Areas of the skin that are tender to the touch
- Discoloration and redness
- Skin that feels hot
- A visible open sore
If you notice your loved one developing bedsores, raise the issue with the hospital authorities immediately.
If it is not addressed, speak with an attorney specializing in bedsores. You may have a case for significant compensation.
Unusual or unexpected weight loss or malnutrition
Another classic sign of hospital neglect is unusual or unexpected weight loss, malnutrition, or dehydration.
This can be more challenging to identify. Sometimes, elderly or sick patients lose weight as a symptom of their condition. This must be understood before making a complaint.
When the weight loss is unexpected or seems unnatural it may be a sign that the patient is not receiving enough calories or nutrients.
This, and keeping the patient well hydrated during their stay, should be a basic requirement of any hospital.
If you suspect weight loss or malnutrition due to neglect, it is a serious situation that needs addressing with the hospital management.
If the issue continues, consider consulting a lawyer who specializes in such cases.
Unsanitary conditions of the bed, the room, and/or the patient
Lastly, another obvious sign of neglect: unsanitary conditions as a result of the bed, ward, or hospital room not being kept clean enough, or because the patient has not been kept clean (or both).
This is usually immediately apparent to visitors.
Typical signs include:
- Soiled bedding and/or clothes
- Poor patient hygiene – lack of bathing
- Unpleasant odors
Many elderly, infirm or mentally impaired patients are unable to bathe themselves or perform the essential daily self-care rituals that healthy people do: washing, bathing, cleaning the teeth, shaving, etc.
They are completely reliant upon the nurses and attendants in hospitals for their own hygiene.
Failure to look after this aspect of care is neglect. It creates unhygienic, unsafe conditions for the patient and should never be tolerated.
Raise the issue with the appropriate authority at the hospital and, if nothing improves, seek the assistance of an experienced lawyer.
Have you observed symptoms of neglect at your hospital?
It is the obligation of those charged to look after the welfare of patients in the hospital to do just that.
Stress and stretched resources in hospitals can lead to nurses feeling burned out, impatient, or unable to sufficiently look after those in their care.
They need the appropriate training, support, and time off from their employers to do this, which isn’t always the case.
Neglect should not be tolerated and the hospital is ultimately responsible for those in their employment and their care.
Remember that many patients in hospitals are unable to speak for themselves or fight back if they feel neglected or show the physical signs of neglect.
Understanding the signs of hospital neglect will help you identify when it’s happening and help you do something about protecting the safety, dignity, and respect of patients.