Currently, there are more than 15,000 nursing homes located across the entire United States. These facilities serve more than 1.4 million elderly residents each year. Over half of these nursing homes are for-profit entities. Much goes into running a successful nursing home – ownership and management must comply with proper hiring standards, Medicare/Medicaid requirements, invest in equipment, and implement services which could include counseling, mental health, rehabilitation, physical therapy, diet and nutrition, dementia/memory care, and pharmaceuticals/medication. With so many moving parts, the most important goal, patient health and well-being, can fall through the cracks.
While we all want to care for our loved ones, sometimes it is not possible – physically, emotionally, or financially. Dealing with a sick or elderly loved one can be difficult, and when nursing home facilities make promises to treat our friends and family well, we expect them to live up to them. Abuse or mistreatment can start out small but turn into a big problem if unaddressed. When visiting your loved one, whether he/she is a parent, grandparent, spouse, sibling, friend, or relative, it is important to always look for signs of potential misconduct. Sometimes they can be explained away, but other times they cannot.
1. Bodily changes
Always take a close look at your loved one, as their body can show that things aren’t going well. For example, did he/she suffer a broken bone? Are there unexplained bruises? These signs could be indicative of a fall, and your loved one may not have been properly monitored. Some patients are classified as a “fall risk” which means they should not be allowed to walk around without assistance. On the other hand, they could result from physical abuse by a nurse or staff member. Bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers, are injuries to skin and the underlying tissue that result from prolonged pressure to the skin. They range in severity, and if a loved one is allowed to stay in the same position without being moved or turned, they can come about.
2. Sudden weight loss
Does your loved one’s overall physical appearance seem different? Did he/she rapidly lose weight? Does his/her skin color seem off? If so, your loved one may suffer from malnutrition or dehydration. Studies show nearly 1 out of 3 nursing home residents suffers from malnutrition at any given time. If a resident is not given a proper diet or consume enough liquids, muscle mass may deteriorate and cognitive difficulties can arise.
3. Unexplained changes in mood/behavior
Was your loved one typically a happy person? Did he/she always have a great attitude? Has that changed all of the sudden? Be on the lookout for one of the most severe forms of abuse – emotional abuse. There is no doubt that being a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) can be stressful, but some staff members choose to take extreme measures against patients whom they feel are not listening or behaving. Emotional abuse encompasses bullying, name calling, public humiliation, belittling, embarrassment, and other forms of threatening behavior. This could also be a sign of overmedication. Some nursing homes have been busted for giving patients sedatives when not medically necessary.
4. High turnover among staff
Staffing protocols are in place in the nursing home industry. Ideally, there will be a sufficient nurse to resident ratio, which allows staff to devote proper attention to each and every resident. Otherwise, chaos ensues and staff cannot ensure residents are taken care of, including meals, doctor appointments, medication, etc. If your loved one’s nursing staff consistently turns over, there may be an underlying problem. With consistent understaffing, nurses can feel stressed and stretched thin. This could lead to poor performance, mental lapses, and errors in judgment, all of which negatively affect residents.
5. Poor hygiene
Nursing home residents have basic rights – and that includes to be safe, clean, and healthy. If residents do not live in a clean environment, they are susceptible to developing infections or getting sick. A seemingly minor infection can turn into a significant complication based on other health issues the resident may be experiencing. Signs of abuse include failing to bathe the resident, bed sores, leaving a resident in soiled clothes, and similar acts.
We all want to be there for our loved ones, but sometimes we don’t have the means to take care of them 24/7. We place our trust in licensed nursing home facilities to ensure proper procedures are followed in terms of giving good care to our loved ones. Be sure to look for sights of mistreatment, and you can report them to local authorities. For a free consultation with a nursing home neglect attorney today, call the law firm of Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz at 800-529-4004. We fight for the rights of innocent victims throughout Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, and Kentucky.