What Is Nursing Home Neglect?
When a loved one is placed in a nursing home or assisted living facility, you assume they will receive at least a reasonable standard of care. You hope the nursing home can provide a better care environment for your loved one than they would have at home: quality medical services, a healthy diet, and a daily routine that encourages them to stay active and engaged.
Unfortunately, not all nursing homes maintain the appropriate level of care for their residents. The trick is spotting it when it happens. Would you know nursing home neglect if you saw it? How does the law legally define nursing home neglect? In this blog post, we will help you understand the level of care you have the right to expect your loved one to receive, and give you a sense of when it is time to seek legal help.
Nursing Homes and Duty of Care
Nursing homes owe a legal duty of care to their residents to:
- Ensure they receive appropriate nutrition;
- Provide medical care when necessary, including making sure that the resident takes any needed medications on time, and that the resident receives timely medical attention for a new medical problem;
- Keep residents clean, including bathing and changing clothing regularly; and
- Maintain the premises and train staff to minimize the risk of injury to residents.
Signs of Nursing Home Neglect
Signs of nursing home neglect appear over time. One of the best defenses against nursing home neglect is to visit a loved one regularly to observe the quality of care over an extended period. Regular visits can also help make signs of neglect more obvious. If you visit a loved one and observe these common signs of neglect, fast action can help keep them safe and ensure a higher quality of life.
- Your loved one has gained or lost weight rapidly. Weight loss or gain may occur naturally in some seniors when they enter a nursing home. If weight gain or loss occurs rapidly, however, it may indicate that the nursing home fails to measure intake properly, to provide adequate nutrition, or to ensure a resident is taking needed medication.
- Your loved one shows signs of social withdrawal and/or doesn’t want to communicate. When a nursing home neglects a senior, rather than providing quality care, the senior may show reluctance to speak about the treatment he or she receives. Your loved one may refuse to talk in your presence or show reluctance to answer questions. Seniors may particularly avoid discussing incidents of outright physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
- Your loved one has unexplained injuries. Seniors’ skin often grows more fragile over time, which can increase the risk of cuts and bruises. Constant unexplained injuries, however, could indicate either abuse or neglect. In some cases, nursing homes may fail to clean and tidy the seniors’ surroundings, causing them to injure themselves more frequently.
- Your loved one smells bad, appears dirty, or has other signs of poor hygiene. If you notice hygiene decreasing, it could indicate neglect. Many seniors, especially seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia, may struggle to remember to clean themselves regularly. Others may resist taking a bath or shower, especially if they associate that activity with discomfort. The nursing home, however, has a duty to ensure proper hygiene for its residents.
- Your loved one develops bedsores. When seniors must remain in bed or cannot move around easily on their own, they may develop bedsores or pressure sores from sitting or lying in the same position all the time. Nursing home staff should help your loved one move around and change position, even if he or she must remain in bed, to help prevent the development of pressure sores. If sores develop and go untreated, they can lead to more serious health problems. Sores may not always indicate neglect. They do, however, require immediate attention and indicate that you should watch out for further signs of potential neglect.
- Your loved one shows increased symptoms of an illness that he or she usually controls with medication. Nursing homes have the critical responsibility of ensuring that residents take needed medications on time so the illness or condition the medications treat remains under control. If your loved one begins to show signs of increasing or recurrent illness, he or she should receive treatment from a physician as soon as possible to help manage symptoms. Failure to provide appropriate medical treatment indicates neglect.
- The facility appears unsanitary. Nursing homes must provide sanitary facilities for their residents. Unsanitary facilities can increase the risk of residents transmitting diseases, suffering injuries, and declining mentally. Look for obvious warning signs of a lack of sanitary conditions: food sitting out hours past when it should have been thrown away; trash cans overflowing with waste; medical supplies sitting out in the open where residents can easily access them; sharps and other materials that have not been placed in appropriate containers; dirt or dust accumulating in your loved one’s room; or signs that the bathroom has not been cleaned properly.
- Your loved one loses mobility quickly, with no medical explanation. Nursing homes usually try to keep seniors up and moving, maintaining mobility so they can continue to care for themselves and enjoy daily activities as much as possible. If that mobility decreases quickly, it could be a sign the nursing home has not provided adequate activities or care, but instead has left your loved one stuck in their room. It could also be a sign the nursing home has failed to make appropriate physical therapy services available to residents, another form of neglect.
If you have a loved one who suffered neglect in a nursing home, seek help to advise you how to protect your loved one’s health and legal rights. At Hughey Law Firm, we offer legal support for victims of nursing home neglect and their loved ones. Contact us today at (843) 881-8644 to schedule your free consultation, discuss your loved one’s injuries, and explore whether you have grounds for a lawsuit.