Currently, close to two million people in the US live in nursing homes. Most long-term care facilities do a great job of protecting the residents, but even then, bad things happen in the form of neglect and abuse. While neglect and abuse often go hand-in-hand, they have somewhat different meanings.
Neglect is when someone fails to provide a resident with proper care and services to prevent harm or pain, whether intentionally or not. It is also the failure to properly react to a potentially dangerous situation whereby a resident was hurt or became anxious. Abuse is the intentional infliction of pain, intimidation, deprivation of food or medical care, unreasonable confinement, and punishment that causes the resident pain, harm, or mental anguish.
Following are some of the most common signs of nursing home neglect and abuse:
- Pinching, slapping, shaking, pushing, kicking, threats, and emotional or verbal abuse
- Continual or prolonged deprivation of water or food
- Inadequate care for existing medical conditions
- Use of chemical or physical restraint
- Sexual assault or battery, including rape
Unfortunately, many neglected and abused nursing home residents cannot speak out or refuse to say anything in fear of retaliation. Therefore, it is up to you to be that person’s eyes, ears, and voice. For one thing, pay attention to your gut instinct, but also, if you witness or hear of something going on, whether to your loved one or another resident, it is imperative that you raise concerns with the appropriate authorities. You also need to contact a reputable attorney who deals with these types of cases.
It is important to note that not all neglect and abuse cases involve nursing home staff since these atrocities can also be carried out by visitors, vendors, and even other residents. To protect your loved one, report anything that makes you suspicious of wrongdoing.
- Change in Behavior – A resident may become more talkative or quiet, begin to show signs of physical assertion or aggression, start crying easily, become extremely withdrawn or agitated, or prefer to be isolated away from staff and other residents.
- Physical Injuries – The nursing home should notify you whenever your loved one is injured. If not and you notice bruises and cuts, this could be a clear sign that your loved one is not receiving proper care or that handling is too rough. Even if notified regarding a fracture or head injury, you have the right to demand answers.
- Malnutrition and Dehydration – Any sudden weight loss or gain, as well as dry eyes, lethargy, headache, dizziness, or dry skin, could indicate a problem with malnutrition and dehydration.
The thought of a loved one being neglected or abused is beyond disturbing. Instead of hoping that nothing is wrong, you need to take quick action before the situation worsens. In addition to contacting the state authorities and the Ombudsman, who is an official appointed to handle these types of investigations, you need to get in touch with a qualified attorney. That way, your loved one can be moved to a safe location, and you can take legal action against the nursing home facility.