As family members age, they may develop health conditions that leave them unable to live on their own. Without the ability and training to house and care for them in your home, you may have no other option but to place them in a nursing home.
Unfortunately, nursing home neglect and abuse is a common problem, although caretakers are supposed to give protection and care to patients. Abuse can be emotional, sexual, physical, financial or medical. If you fear your loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, watch for the following five key signs:
1. Poor personal hygiene
When you walk into your family member's room, look closely for details that their personal hygiene is being neglected. Perhaps your loved one smells of feces, urine or body odor. He or she may also have overgrown nails, unwashed hair or dirty clothes. Any one of these conditions can be a red flag that your loved one isn't being cared for as he or she should.
2. Distressed emotional state
Do you notice more fear, guilt, anxiety, agitation or embarrassment in your loved one when you visit? Does your loved one flinch easily, appear nervous when certain staff members are nearby or seem quieter? Such behaviors could indicate that you loved one is a victim of bullying, humiliation, ridiculing or threats of punishment from the staff at the care facility. It may also be a sign that cries for help are being ignored.
3. Poor physical state
Watch for open wounds, bedsores, bruises, scratches or other signs of rough handling as your loved one is being transferred. Many nursing home patients are unable to move on their own and require help from staff for basic everyday tasks. If the staff is too rough on the patient, it could result in broken bones or dislocations. Pay close attention to any physical problems that aren't the result of aging or a chronic condition.
4. Frequent depression
If your loved one is being mistreated, he or she may become depressed and withdraw from things previously enjoyed. Elderly patients often require mental stimulation to keep their brains active, and those who are being abused may completely withdraw if they fear retaliation, even when family members that visit.
5. Disorientation and drowsiness
When you place your loved one in a nursing home, you trust that their medications are delivered on time and at the appropriate dosage. If the staff over- or under-medicates patients, they may be disoriented, confused or drowsy at inappropriate times. Medications also require adjustments when they are first prescribed, and if the nursing home staff neglects the patient, medications may have an adverse effect.
If you fear your loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, you may benefit from seeking the advice of an attorney to determine how to approach the situation. The attorney can explain what your rights are and help you take steps to protect your family member from further harm.