8 Vital Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
8 Vital Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect – and – What You Can Do About It
When placing our loved ones in a nursing home, we would like to have a peace of mind knowing they will be in good hands. After all, by its definition, a nursing home should provide a safe environment and quality care for the elderly, infirm, or chronically ill. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
Federal law requires a nursing home to care for its residents in a way that promotes their quality of life. That means that residents must be treated with respect and dignity. But did you know that literally thousands of cases of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation go unaddressed and unreported each year?
Yes, more than 30 percent of all nursing homes in the United States indulge in some form of resident abuse? To make matters worse, the published statistics do not reflect all nursing home abuse cases, because only about 20 percent ever get reported, so the majority of abuse and neglect cases do not even figure into the statistics.
And, as if these figures were not frightening enough already, it is estimated that with a growing number of the elderly going to live in nursing homes every year, abuse statistics are expected to reach truly alarming levels.
You might be wondering whether there is anything you can do to ensure that your loved one does not become a victim of such abuse. You must remain vigilant at all times, any of the following signs of abuse and/or neglect must be acted upon immediately.
If you loved one's mobility is limited as result of being wheelchair or bed-bound, he or she should be turned and repositioned every two hours because of the risk of developing bedsores – painful ulcers caused by constant pressure to the skin and muscles.
If caught in the initial stage – identified as a persistent pink or red ares that does not turn white when you press it with your finger – bedsores are easily treated. However, when left to fester, these injuries can destroy tissue and muscle, and even be fatal!
Check the pressure points on the buttocks, elbows, heels and legs for early evidence of bedsores. Notify the staff of any worrisome signs. And don't hesitate to voice your concerns about the lack of proper care and attention to your loved one's needs.
Dehydration can be especially dangerous in the elderly, causing harm faster than starvation. A 10 percent loss of body fluids is serious. A 20 percent loss can result in death. The need for hydration may be even greater in the elderly who take diuretics or suffer from incontinence. One way to ensure sufficient liquid intake is to drink at least six cups of fluid each day. Are you sure your loved one is getting that?
The signs of dehydration include dry mouth, parched lips, weakness or lightheadedness, and change in skin tone. If unsure, ask the doctor to run blood and urine tests.
There are many causes of dementia in the elderly: Alzheimer's disease, which accounts for up to 60 percent of all cases, is the main one, but a person can suffer from more than one type of dementia at the same time. Look for signs and symptoms such as memory loss, especially of recent events; problems finding the correct words' poor concentration; difficulty grasping new ideas or mastering new skills; severe mental and physical problems, including loss of speech, immobility and frailty.
To make sure that dementia is not caused by external factors of neglect (for example, malnutrition or dehydration) ask the doctor for a blood test.
Walking is a good exercise, even for the elderly who may suffer from various diseases. However, their sense of balance may be impaired by a slew of conditions, such as dizziness, poor eyesight, arthritis, and frailty, to mention just a few.
To avoid the risk and the consequences of a fall, make sure your loved one has the necessary assistance in the form of a walker or, in extreme cases, a nursing home staffer. A fall can lead to serious and ever life-threatening injuries, so caution – and precaution – is critical.
The lack of proper personal hygiene, both body and oral, should be a warning sign that your loved one's care may be lacking, or even neglected. A regular bath – at least three time a week, bu more frequently if possible – should be taken or given to prevent rashes and other skin conditions. Clothes and linen should be laundered and kept clean and dry.
6. Illness and Infections
Bacteria and viruses easily attack weakened and frail immune systems of the elderly. While illnesses and infections is a communal facility may not be entirely preventable, if your loved one does succumb, make sure he or she receives prompt and adequate medical care.
Older and bedridden patients who may already suffer from pre-existing ailments should not be left untreated, or be treated only superficially. If no prompt and proper medical treatment is given, call an ambulance. Sometimes it's safer to take matters into your own hands than wait around for the nursing home staff to act.
7. Nursing Assistance
Is the nursing home adequately staffed or is there a shortage of competent employees? If there are more than nine residents per attendant, make sure your loved one's needs are being met. Even if the ratio is lower than nine, the employee may be overworked and not paying adequate attention to each resident's needs.
While low salaried, inadequate training, and the high turnover rate of staff at nursing homes may not be entirely to blame for cases of abuse and neglect, documented examples of staff members' mistreatment of residents do exist. Ate these employees patient, kind and respectful towards the elderly, or are they easily irritated and angered? Do they resort to shouting and verbal abuse?
If you notice any such behavior, complain immediately to the administrators.
Eating regular and balanced meals is crucial for the elderly. However, may may not be able to feed themselves and may suffer from malnutrition. Visit during mealtimes and check the tray to make sure the food is hot and adapted to individual dietary needs.
If your loved one is unable to feed him/herself, is someone available to feed him/her in an unrushed manner? Forced feeding or shoving the food into an elderly person's mouth can cause choking, aspiration, pneumonia, and even death.
What You Should Do
The above points are just some indicators of potential abuse and/or neglect. As an advocate for your loved one, keep your eyes and ears open. Remember: nursing home abuse has injured and killed may residents and has left families in devastation and bereavement.
If your loved one has been a victim of such an abuse, consult with an experienced and qualified attorney.
||The American Trial Lawyers Association is a national organization composed of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers from each state. Membership is obtained through special invitation and is extended only to those attorneys who exemplify superior qualifications, leadership, reputation, influence, stature, and profile as trial lawyers, both civil plaintiff and criminal defense. Samuel Bearman is honored to be listed in the Top 100 Florida Trial Lawyers.|
Samuel W. Bearman, L.C.
Attorney at Law - Pensacola, Florida
820 North 12th Avenue
Pensacola, Florida 32501