The decision to put a loved one into nursing home care is a hard one. You may not be able to give your loved one the day-to-day care that they need at home, or they may require specialized medical care. Either way, you have to trust that the nursing home you choose will take care of your loved one the way that you would.
It’s frightening to think that your loved one could be a victim of nursing home abuse and neglect, but it does happen. It’s important to be vigilant about watching for signs of abuse and neglect so that you can advocate for your loved one. Neglect, in particular, can be difficult to spot if you don’t know what to look for. Take a look at some signs of nursing home neglect that you should be watching for.
1. The Nursing Home Is Understaffed
Understaffing is a huge problem in many American nursing homes. No matter how caring and dedicated the nursing home staff members are, one nurse or one nurse’s aide can only take care of so many patients at one time. When the number of staff members is insufficient to care for all the patients, neglect is a common result, however unintentional it may be.
Federal law only requires that nursing homes have a registered nurse (RN) on duty eight hours a day and an RN or licensed practical nurse (LPN) on duty 24 hours a day. No federal minimum requirements exist for the certified nurse assistants (CNAs) who provide much of the caretaking tasks for residents.
Your state may have higher staffing requirements — and you should be aware of those requirements — but even most state standards don’t rise to the levels recommended by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for optimum care.
You can look for signs to tell if a nursing home doesn’t have enough staff. For example, when you visit a nursing home, watch to see how long it takes staff members to answer call lights. Do lights stay on for more than a few minutes? See how long it takes to find a nurse or aide when you want to talk to one. Do staff members seem frustrated and rushed?
Do you rarely see the same staff members twice between visits? This could be a sign of high turnover, which is a common problem for understaffed nursing homes.
2. Your Loved One Loses Weight With No Explanation
Weight loss is a tricky symptom. It could be a result of your loved one’s medical condition or a side effect of their treatment. Many conditions and medications can cause a loss of appetite or gastrointestinal problems that can lead to weight loss. But unexplained weight loss can be a sign of neglect.
Some studies find that between 35 and 85 percent of nursing home patients suffer from malnutrition or dehydration, both of which can lead to weight loss. Nursing homes are required to assess their patients’ nutritional status every three months so that they can take steps to prevent unhealthy weight loss.
Unexplained weight loss could be a sign that these assessments aren’t being performed or that the nursing home staff aren’t taking the proper steps to ensure patients get enough to eat and drink. The staff can use several methods to help patients gain and maintain weight, from adjusting the patients’ diets to assisting them while eating.
Weight loss due to malnutrition or dehydration is preventable and should be considered a sign of neglect.
3. Your Loved One Has Bedsores
Bedsores, or pressure ulcers, are sores that develop on the body as a result of being confined to a bed or chair. These sores are completely preventable, and if your loved one does develop bedsores, this condition should be considered a possible sign of neglect.
Bedsores could be a sign that patients aren’t getting out of bed, being cleaned and showered properly or turning while they’re in bed. If patients can’t do these things for themselves, nursing home staff are supposed to perform these actions for the patient.
Nursing home staff should perform regular skin assessments and keep the patient’s skin clean and dry. They should also ensure that incontinent patients are toileted or cleaned as frequently as necessary and that sedentary patients are turned regularly in bed and positioned in a 30-degree side-lying position with their head elevated no more than 30 degrees.
Common locations for bedsores include the heels, tailbones, hips and shoulders, but they can form in other places as well. Be on the lookout for signs that your loved one is developing bedsores. These sores can be severely painful, and if not treated properly, bedsores can become infected and affect the patient’s overall health.
Your loved one shouldn’t have to suffer because of nursing home neglect. If you suspect that your loved one has been injured due to nursing home neglect, you have legal recourse. Contact an injury attorney with experience in nursing home neglect and abuse cases for help.