Nursing Home Abuse: How to Identify and What to Do
When you are getting your old parent or any closed one admitted to a nursing home, you are trusting that he or she will be subjected to proper care and treatment. Unfortunately, certain facilities might betray your trust. The staff might turn out to be abusive and harsh in their treatment towards these residents. Nursing home abuse is pretty common today across the country. So, it is extremely important to recognize the very signs of mistreatment so that you can act against it accordingly. You might need to take legal actions to highlight the abuse and punish the concerned staff.

The staff-led abuse or irresponsibility in their duties can have grave impacts on the nursing home resident. It might even cause long-term damage if the abuse is not uncovered soon. Physical abuse involves intentional use of force which results in pain, injury, or impairment, which can be caused by both assault and misuse of restraints. Emotional abuse comprises of psychological damage through hurtful words, isolation, or menacing behavior. Sexual abuse and financial exploitation are also common at the hands of caregivers themselves. Nursing home neglect includes cases like denying meals to a resident for consistent days, giving a deaf ear to the patient’s medical needs, refusing to treat illness, failing to provide basic care and much more. They are nothing but frauds in the name of caregivers. They often try to cover the abuse when questioned. Such types of abuse can lead to grave mental and physical trauma altogether. If the patient is subjected to abuse for a long period of time, he or she might even get mentally or physically ill for life.

Here are some basic warning signs that may help you to identify nursing home abuse:

Physical Abuse

  • Random injuries like scratches, bruises, welts, broken bones, burns, or scars etc. that have no valid explanation.
  • Signs of restraint, such as marks around the wrists

Emotional Abuse

  • Abrupt changes in personality or behavior such as getting moody or emotional
  • Holding back from indulging in social activities
  • Manic behaviors, such as rocking or mumbling to oneself
  • Denial of visiting the resident in the absence of a caregiver or complete isolation from family members
  • Tolerating inhumane or aggressive behavior from a caregiver

Sexual Abuse

  • An inexplicable sexually transmitted disease
  • Trauma or swelling in genital area
  • Torn or stained underclothes

Financial Exploitation

  • Significant or unexplained withdrawals from accounts or purchases
  • Changes in wills, titles, or power of attorney
  • Unpaid bills, even when elder has means to cover them
  • Items or cash missing

Neglect

  • Significant weight loss or malnutrition
  • Cracking, swollen lips or other signs of dehydration
  • Bedsores or ulcers
  • Signs of deteriorating personal hygiene
  • Dirty or unsafe living conditions
  • Soiled bedding or clothing
  • Unsuitable clothing for weather conditions
  • Unexpected leftover medication

Healthcare Fraud

  • Excessive testing
  • Unexplained billing to medical provider for services
  • Duplicate bills for service or medication
  • Unnecessary treatment or medication

How to prevent nursing home neglect?

The negligent nursing home events can be prevented. The first step is to recognize the warning sign. In order to identify the signs, one needs to check on the patients on a daily or weekly basis. It is the duty of the nursing staff to be readily available to assist patients with mobility issues. Patients who are identified as high-risk for nursing home falls should be monitored frequently.

The nursing home environment should be paid attention to by the staff. Any sanitary and safety concerns should be addressed as soon as possible. The nursing home resident’s mattress should be flush with the bed frame or bed rails. It is a necessary measure to prevent the patient from suffocating between the mattress and the railing. Monitoring has to be done properly. The nursing home patient should be monitored for changes in mobile, mental ability or any developing medical concerns.

A combined effort might be required to prevent an old patient’s injuries. It is a given that nursing home patients who are consistently visited by their family, friends and other loved ones are less likely to be subjected to neglect or abuse. The family should be vigilant and check on the nursing home resident for any sign of nursing home neglect, emotional distress, or changes in health. The effective communication system should exist between family members and nurses. This eradicates the possibility of such inhumane acts or neglect. For understaffed nursing homes, it is a must.

Here are some concrete steps that can be taken to prevent nursing home abuse:

  • Avoid isolation
  • Do not isolate the nursing home resident at any cost. If not regular visits, make it a point to visit at least once in two weeks. The visit can be made by you or any other family member turn by turn. Complete isolation can cause depression, sadness, and loneliness that might increase the chances of neglect or abuse.

  • Be observant
  • While you are on a visit to the nursing home, try being observant and look out for any signs of physical or mental abuse. In case you find any such alarming sign, make a note of it mentally and take further action.

  • Motivate elders to be active
  • Consistent activity can prolong an elder’s life and can also keep them happy most times. It also decreases the chances of vulnerability to elder abuse. Encourage elders to attend religious services and community activities. This can help them stay in touch with their principles and ethics that they have followed in their lives.

  • Prevent elders from living with abusive or violent people
  • Make sure that the old resident is not staying with someone with a history of violence or abuse. Once an abuser, always an abuser!

  • Do not allow caregivers who have drug issues
  • These people might exploit the elders financially to give in to their old habit.