Your elderly loved one is in a nursing home because they need a high level of care. At a minimum, they have a right to be fed and bathed and to have their medical and social-emotional needs met. In addition, they are paying for care that should include early intervention of medical concerns, engaging activities, and genuine care for their overall well-being. As a family member and advocate for your loved one, it will be up to you to assess the care they are getting and to identify potential signs of abuse or neglect.
Our Kansas City nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys encourage you to learn about the kinds of abuse and neglect that can occur in a care facility and to be vigilant in identifying signs that your loved one is not receiving the care they should be getting.
Examples of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Abuse and neglect can take a variety of forms, including physical, emotional, financial, sexual, and medical. The following are specific examples of the kinds of abuse that can happen at an understaffed or negligent nursing home.
Bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers, result from prolonged pressure on the skin. Nursing home residents who are bedridden or have limited mobility are at risk. Neglect occurs when staff fails to regularly reposition residents, provide adequate skincare, or address underlying health issues contributing to bedsores.
Unjustified Use of Restraints
Inappropriate use of physical or chemical restraints without proper justification is a form of abuse. Restraints should only be used when medically necessary, and their use should be closely monitored. Restraints may include physical devices, such as straps or belts, or medications that restrict a person's freedom of movement.
Neglect in providing sufficient nutrition can lead to malnutrition. This may result from staff failing to assist residents with eating, inadequate meal planning, or not addressing dietary restrictions or special needs. Malnutrition can contribute to a decline in overall health and exacerbate existing medical conditions.
Similar to malnutrition, dehydration can occur when residents do not receive adequate fluids. Staff negligence may involve a failure to offer water regularly, inadequate monitoring of fluid intake, or not addressing underlying medical conditions that contribute to dehydration.
Administering the wrong medication, incorrect dosage, or neglecting to administer medication altogether are examples of abuse and neglect. Proper medication management is crucial for residents' well-being, and errors can have serious consequences.
Emotional and Verbal Abuse
Residents may experience emotional or verbal abuse through threats, humiliation, intimidation, or disrespectful language. Such abuse can have a profound impact on mental health, causing anxiety, depression, and a decline in overall well-being.
Exploitation involves the misuse or theft of a resident's money or property. This can be perpetrated by staff, other residents, or external individuals. Signs may include unexplained financial transactions, missing personal items, or sudden changes in a resident's financial situation.
Inadequate Hygiene Care
Neglecting personal hygiene needs, such as bathing, oral care, and changing clothes, can lead to skin infections, discomfort, and a decline in the resident's dignity and self-esteem.
Delay or Denial of Medical Care
Failure to promptly address medical concerns, provide necessary medical treatments, or seek emergency care when needed constitutes neglect. Delays in medical care can result in worsening health conditions and unnecessary suffering.
Intentional isolation of residents from social activities, family visits, or community interactions can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression. Isolation can be a form of emotional abuse, impacting the resident's mental well-being.
Signs That Your Loved One May Not Be Receiving Adequate Care in a Nursing Home
Identifying signs of abuse or neglect in a nursing home can be crucial to ensuring the well-being of residents. It's important to note that these signs can vary, and some may be indicative of other issues. If you observe any of these signs, you should investigate further and report concerns to the appropriate authorities.
- Unexplained injuries. Bruises, fractures, or cuts that cannot be adequately explained by the resident or staff may indicate physical abuse.
- Bedsores. Open wounds on the skin, especially in areas prone to pressure sores, may suggest neglect in repositioning and care.
- Unexplained weight loss. Rapid or significant weight loss without a reasonable explanation may be a sign of malnutrition or neglect.
- Dehydration. Signs of dehydration include dry skin, cracked lips, sunken eyes, and dark urine.
- Poor hygiene. Noticeable lack of personal care, such as unchanged clothes, unpleasant body odor, or unkempt hair, can suggest neglect.
- Infections. Frequent or unexplained infections may indicate inadequate hygiene practices or a failure to address underlying health issues.
Behavioral and Emotional Signs
- Withdrawal or isolation. Sudden social withdrawal, reluctance to communicate, or a resident's desire to be alone may indicate emotional abuse or neglect.
- Fear or anxiety. Expressing fear or anxiety around certain staff members, reluctance to speak openly, or signs of emotional distress can be indicative of abuse.
- Depression. Noticeable changes in mood, persistent sadness, or loss of interest in activities may suggest emotional or verbal abuse.
- Agitation or aggression. Unexplained aggression, irritability, or increased agitation could be a response to abuse or neglect.
- Change in sleep patterns. Insomnia, frequent nightmares, or disruptions in sleep patterns may indicate emotional distress.
- Unsafe living conditions. Unsanitary living conditions, such as dirty rooms, lack of proper heating or cooling, or infestations, can suggest neglect.
- Lack of personal belongings. Missing personal items, especially valuables, may indicate theft or financial exploitation.
Verbal and Communication Signs
- Fearful or hesitant communication. Reluctance to speak openly or a resident's fear of retaliation for expressing concerns may suggest a hostile environment.
- Conflicting explanations. Inconsistent or conflicting explanations from staff regarding a resident's well-being or incidents may raise suspicion.
- Unexplained financial transactions. Sudden changes in a resident's financial situation, unauthorized withdrawals, or missing funds may indicate financial exploitation.
- Unattended health issues. Failure to address or delay in addressing medical concerns, missed medication doses, or inadequate medical care can be signs of neglect.
- Overmedication. Excessive sedation or use of unnecessary medications may indicate abuse or inadequate medical management.
- Decline in overall well-being. Unexplained deterioration in a resident's physical, emotional, or mental well-being may suggest a broader pattern of abuse or neglect.
It's important to remember that these signs should be considered collectively, and not all residents will exhibit the same indicators. If you suspect abuse or neglect, it's crucial to follow up on your concerns. If you get push-back or resistance from nursing home authorities, call Peterson & Associates, PC, to find out what your next steps should be.