The last thing anyone wants is being forced to accuse a nursing home or assisted living facility of injuring a patient. It’s almost too awful to say.
But if we don’t speak up for our vulnerable elders, who are often too debilitated or afraid to put a stop to it, no one will.
Here are some typical signs of neglect in long term care facilities listed in an extensive 2003 report on Elder Mistreatment, prepared by the National Research Council’s Panel to Review Risk and Prevalence of Elder Abuse and Neglect:
- Extensive bruises. Blunt force trauma ruptures blood vessels. Look for the pattern of the bruise—it may reveal what caused it.
- Broken bones. In abuse cases, this occurs especially in the face and jaw. Of course, falls from unsafe floors and lack of monitoring cause broken hips, arms, and wrists.
- Bed sores and pressure ulcers. This just shouldn’t happen. If immobile patients aren’t turned regularly, skin breaks down, causing painful open wounds with foul discharges that invite deadly infections.
- Malnutrition and dehydration. Rapid, unexplained weight loss can indicate there’s not enough staff to feed your loved one, or that the staff is untrained to help patients eat. It can also be a side effect of improper or inadequate medications. Likewise, dehydration can indicate insufficient staff training or personnel to monitor fluid intake.
- Medication abuse or prescription mistakes. This includes overdoses, under-doses, or giving the wrong medication. Be vigilant for potential side effects, like when a narcotic pain killer seems to suddenly have little or no effect at all. And improper prescriptions for patients who can have a lot of medications can lead to violent, life-ending harm from drug interactions.
- Physical restraints. These can only be used to prevent significant harm, like preventing a patient from yanking out a feeding tube or removing an oxygen mask. They cannot be used to “make it easier on staff.” Even when rightly used, it must be used the right way. Restraints can’t be too tight. Movement cannot be completely cut off.
Don’t Look the Other Way
You made the agonizing choice to put your parents or grandparents in a facility because they needed specialized care for their unique needs. If they don’t get it from the trained professionals you entrusted them to, don’t let the facility get away with it. Speak up, because the one you love is now dependent on you to do it.
If you suspect a loved one is being neglected, take swift action to address it—and waste no time doing it. Go straight to the top—talk to the director of the facility about your concerns and do not be satisfied until they are met. Your mom or dad or grandparents nurtured you lovingly throughout your life, and now it’s your turn to do the same for them.
If you feel your parent or grandparent got hurt by a facility’s neglect or abuse, feel free to email us to schedule a meeting where we can talk about the facility’s obligations to keep its patients safe and decide whether you should take action to vindicate those rights.