Nursing Home Neglect: What You Need to Know
When you leave a loved one in the care of a nursing home or home help aide, you have every reason to expect compassionate and attentive care at all times.
You hire a nursing service and pay good money to provide comfort, companionship, and/or medical care to your loved one, who may be elderly or sick.
That comes with a high responsibility for home care or a nursing home.
Failure to meet the required standards, whether intentionally or unintentionally, can have serious (and even life-threatening) consequences for your loved one.
Unfortunately, neglect is more common than most people would care to admit. Between 2013 and 2017, almost a third of U.S. nursing homes were reported at least five times for quality of care issues, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
Arming yourself with the knowledge of what can go wrong will help you keep an eye out for potential issues: one of the most common problems is home care or nursing home neglect.
What is nursing home neglect?
Nursing home neglect is the substandard care of a resident in a nursing home or failure to perform the duties of care that a resident should reasonably expect.
People in nursing homes are generally elderly but neglect could also involve sick or injured loved ones being cared for at home.
Neglect in either of these situations can have serious consequences. It should be considered a form of abuse and is recognized as such by the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), which protects the rights of elderly people in the U.S.
People in nursing care situations are at their most vulnerable and are reliant upon the professionalism and good nature of caregivers, who are in a position of trust.
Failure to fulfill their duties is a serious breach of this trust and an indirect form of abuse.
Around 15 percent of complaints about elder abuse are for gross neglect, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime.
Thankfully, the law provides some protection for victims in this situation.
Types of nursing home neglect
It helps to understand the various forms of nursing home neglect. Most commonly, neglect takes one of these four forms:
This is where professional staff responsible for providing care to your loved one fail to perform their medical duties.
It could involve failure to assist your loved one with adequate movement (to prevent bedsore infections, for instance) or to provide medication at specified times.
Personal care neglect
Often, nursing home staff or home help aides are tasked with assistance in providing personal care to loved ones.
Failure to help them get dressed, use the bathroom, bathe or to take other adequate steps for ensuring personal hygiene constitutes personal care neglect.
Basic needs neglect
Receiving enough food and water in a clean and safe environment should be the very least that you expect for your loved one in a nursing environment.
Failure to provide this is a serious breach of duty of care.
The emotional toll of neglect on vulnerable loved ones should not be underestimated. Interaction with compassionate carers is a basic requirement when you hire a nursing service.
Being abandoned or left without company or care in a nursing home or at home can have serious emotional consequences as well as physical ones.
How to identify nursing home neglect
Nursing home neglect is usually due to poorly staffed facilities, lack of training for the attendant staff, or inadequate hiring policies from the nursing service.
Whatever the cause, being forewarned about the signs of nursing home neglect help you protect your loved one.
Some of the most common signs include:
Poor level of cleanliness and hygiene
One obvious sign of neglect is poor cleanliness: dirty floors, bedsheets, or mold on the walls is unacceptable.
Similarly, if your loved one’s state of personal hygiene is noticeably poor (unwashed appearance, dirty clothing, unbrushed teeth, etc.), this is a red flag that must be raised with the appropriate authority.
Bedsores and lack of mobility
Another sign of neglect is when your loved one is not being assisted with mobility.
If they remain in bed for long periods, look for the signs of bedsores – red or irritated skin often on the back or buttocks.
They may also lose muscle mass and bone density if attention is not paid to their mobility.
If your loved one looks undernourished, malnourished, or dehydrated, or is frequently irritable, tired, and/or cold, these are also warning signs of neglect.
Sudden injury or illness
Sudden, unexplained injuries (often from unseen falls) are common with neglect. Sometimes, unresponsive nursing staff fail to assist patients with trips to the bathroom, for instance.
Health problems to watch out for in nursing homes include infections, choking fits, gastroenteritis, influenza, respiratory infections, and skin infections.
Depression and fear
It is not only physical signs of neglect that show.
Watch out for your loved one’s mental condition, especially with feelings of depression, insecurity or fear exhibited towards nursing staff.
Report nursing home neglect
What can you do if you suspect that a loved one is the victim of neglect by nursing home staff or a home help aide?
First, start gathering your evidence as soon as possible: find a good time to speak to your loved one and, if necessary, other residents in the nursing home, take photos, and log your observations.
Then, contact the experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Sinel & Olesen, PLLC for a free consultation to see whether you have a valid case for damages.