When you put your family member or loved one into a nursing home, you place a lot of trust in the facility and its staff members. Most of the time, this setup works out fine, allowing the resident a fair amount of independence while keeping them safe and healthy.
Unfortunately, nursing homes aren’t always the safe havens they should be. Sometimes, they are staffed by malicious, inattentive, or negligent care providers. When this happens, residents can suffer serious mental abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse, or life-threatening neglect. Learn more about nursing home abuse and find out how to protect your loved ones.
Be on the Lookout for Abuse and Neglect
To protect your family member, you need to watch out for both abuse and neglect. Many people know the signs of abuse, such as unexplained injuries, fear of one’s caretakers, and an increase in fearful or anxious behavior. However, neglect is perhaps an even more serious problem in nursing homes.
While abuse may be perpetrated by those who are malicious, neglect can be perpetrated by well-meaning staff members who are overworked and under-supported. With staffing ratios always changing to allow care facilities to save money, it is crucial to make sure that your loved one is safe from both abuse and neglect.
Learn More About Unexplained Injuries
Unexplained injuries are a serious red flag for both abuse and neglect. Unexplainable bruises or broken bones could obviously point to abuse occurring at the hands of an angry caregiver. However, they may also be indicative of neglect. Consider a resident who can use the restroom but needs physical assistance to get to the bathroom. If they ask for help multiple times and don’t receive it, they may try to go on their own. If this happens and they fall, they may sustain injuries that the nursing home wants to cover up. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Watch Out for Sudden Changes in Behavior and Mood
You know your loved one, so speak up if their personality suddenly changes or they act out of character. This may be a symptom of abuse, as victims often become quieter or more fearful to avoid irritating their abuser. They may become jumpy, easily startled, or nervous when you ask them about life in the nursing home. In some cases, victims can even become irritable or angry and lash out at their loved ones. This is one reason it’s so important to be in regular contact with their care providers. If these symptoms are because of a medication change, you’ll know not to worry. If not, though, you need to dig deeper and figure out what’s happening.
Be Wary If Contact is Suddenly Limited
Limited contact is one way that abusers control their victims. They know that if their victims have unlimited access to loved ones, the truth will eventually come out. If you talk to your family member every week and visit every weekend, but they suddenly stop being available for your regular phone calls, make note of that and figure out what’s behind it. The same is true for visits. If you are randomly denied physical access to your loved one or the same caretaker is present during every visit, they may be trying to control the narrative and scare your loved one into staying silent.
Take Note of Bedsores
Perhaps one of the most obvious symptoms of nursing home neglect is bedsores. Bedsores are pressure sores that happen on the skin when constant pressure is applied to the same area. They are relatively common in nursing homes because residents who are not moved often enough may experience skin breakdown on their hips, bottoms, or other areas in contact with the bed. While bedsores may be unavoidable in some cases, in most, they can be prevented through regular repositioning.
Keep an Eye on Staff Turnover
This is a sign that family members may not know is a red flag. While nursing homes in general have high staff turnover rates, you should be wary if you seem to meet a completely new staff every time you visit. When so many staff members leave in such a short period of time, it may indicate that new employees are uncomfortable with the abuse they’re seeing or management’s unwillingness to step in. This may also be a sign of constant fatigue, overwork, or burnout. Constantly pushing employees to do more in less time is the ideal way to encourage them to cut corners, leading to neglect or even abuse.
If nursing home abuse occurs, you have options. There are many ways you can protect your loved one and seek justice for what they’ve suffered. However, you have to prove first that they are in danger. By watching out for these signs, you can keep your loved one safe and secure in their assisted living facility.
If you suspect that your loved one is being abused or neglected in a nursing home, the first thing to do is to take immediate steps to get them out of danger. Contact your state Department of Health or Adult Protective Services to report what has happened and determine the next steps. Once this is done, contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney in your state to discuss your legal options.