The aging process can be difficult on more than just your loved one. It is hard to watch someone you love deteriorate. I know, it happened to my Dad. As dementia and Alzheimer’s slowly took over, a once vibrant man became a shell of himself. It would have been easy for me to blame his caregivers if I did not have such an understanding of the disease process.
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On the other hand, many of the things that can happen as a result of the disease process, can also happen because of abuse or neglect. After making the decision to place a loved one in a nursing home, your worst fear is that they will be mistreated or receive inadequate care. While the vast majority of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other communities geared toward caring for seniors are reputable and trustworthy, instances of misconduct do happen. That’s why you need to investigate bad outcomes.
Obviously, a care provider isn’t going to broadcast that they don’t treat their residents well, so you’ll have to be on the lookout for signs that something is amiss. While there’s no single marker that determines whether or not a facility is up to snuff, there are consistent red flags of substandard care that crop up time and again. If you notice any of the following at your loved one’s residence, it may be time to start asking hard questions.
Your loved one’s overall health and wellness is the surest barometer of the care they’re receiving. If a once-social senior is suddenly withdrawn and uncommunicative, timid, or fearful there could be cause for alarm. Similarly, if someone is consistently injured or unwell, they may not be receiving proper attention. Of course, it’s important to distinguish between decline that results from old age or disease and degeneration that results from abuse or neglect. So, if your loved one has a rapid negative change or is quickly growing worse, ask the staff what’s going on with them. If you do not get satisfactory answers, have them evaluated by a doctor.
Whether inquiring about the status of your relative or asking about any other aspect of the care at the facility, you should receive direct, straightforward answers. Employees who give you the runaround have likely been trained that way, so it’s important to be persistent. A low-level staff member may not have all the answers, but they should be able to put you in touch with someone who does.
Making sure residents receive proper hygiene is a fundamental service. If the nursing home cannot get this right you have to wonder what other things are not being done. Failure to provide this basic level of care is one of the most worrying signals you can observe. Things to look for include whether your loved one is timely showered, shaven, and smells clean. Their nails should be properly cut and if they are incontinent, their bed sheets should be timely changed.
The same standards that apply to your loved one should also apply to the facility itself. The walls and floors should be free of spots, dirt, wear and tear. In addition, it should always be clean and smell good. When you notice a lack of hygiene standards, it’s a good idea to question whether your loved one is in the right place.
Many elderly people have very thin skin that easily discolors or bruises. Simply helping the resident to transfer can cause their skin to tear, discolor, or bruise. Furthermore, certain blood thinning medications like coumadin, lovenox, or warfarin can create discolored pooling of blood under the skin. On the other hand, skin tears, discoloration, and bruising could be signs of abuse. Common types of abuse that can cause these skin findings include repeated falling, mishandling by staff, and physical altercations with violent dementia residents. For this reason, if you see any signs of skin changes, investigate immediately.
Rapid weight loss and dehydration can occur because the resident does not have an appetite. Certain end stage diseases can cause this including Dementia and some forms of cancer. But not eating and drinking can also occur because there is not enough staff to ensure residents are properly feed or offered water. This is most common with residents that cannot eat or drink without assistance. Sure signs of this kind of nursing home neglect include staff not bringing the resident to the cafeteria and or just leaving the residents food in their room without providing the help they need to eat or drink.
Many elderly residents are unsteady on their feet. But they still insist on trying to walk. Because residents have the right to be free from unwarranted physical restraints, it can be difficult for nursing homes to prevent all falls. But they can still do a lot to minimize the number of falls a resident has. Most importantly they can try and figure out why a resident is falling and come up with a plan to prevent them in the future. For example, is the facility staff timely responding to resident call bells. If not, the falls may be occurring because the resident has to go to the bathroom, the staff is not answering the call bell, and the resident chooses to get up to on their own. The most common sense solution is for the nursing home staff to do better in responding to call bells. Other less obvious solutions include putting the bed low to the floor, putting a pad on the floor in front of the bed, and offering to toilet the resident every 2 hours. All of these solutions can be implemented before a resident breaks a bone in a fall.
As discussed above facilities are not allowed to physically restrain residents. As a result, you should never see your loved one tied down to a wheelchair or bed. But physical restraints are not the only type. In fact, the more common type today is a chemical restraint. This means that the resident is overly medicated to the point they are lethargic, docile and or unable to communicate.
Pressure sores, also called bed sores occur because the resident lies in one place too long. The pressure on the skin for an extended period of time causes the skin to not get enough oxygen. As a result, the skin and underlying tissue begin to die. Most pressure sores can be avoided by turning and re-positioning at risk seniors before the pressure sore appears. If you suspect your loved one is at risk of developing a pressure sore, insist on the nursing home staff turning and re-positioning them every 2 hours. If your not sure your loved one is at risk, insist on the staff doing a pressure sore risk analysis.
If you suspect your loved one has been the victim of elder care abuse or neglect, call our office at (813) 259-0022. We’ll help you get the care and compensation your family deserves.