In an ideal world, nursing homes would be a safe haven for the elderly, and a place where you know your loved ones could find peace and quality care. Sadly, this is not always the case.
People are living longer, and the section of society that needs care is growing exponentially. Nursing home neglect is not just something we see in books and movies; it’s a brutal reality that residents and their families experience every day.
Nursing home neglect can vary from falls to malnutrition to verbal abuse. The harms take many forms, but the general reason is almost always that the caregivers are overworked and undertrained. Whatever the situation is, it’s important to hold nursing homes accountable for their actions, so families in the future don’t have to suffer too. Although litigation can hold facilities accountable after the fact, we should always try to prevent it if possible.
There are certain precautions and signs you can look for if you suspect that your loved one is a victim of nursing home neglect. It’s important to know what the nursing homes should be doing and what you can do if they’re not.
Rights of a Nursing Home Resident
Before taking your loved one to a nursing home, you both should be familiar with the legal rights of a nursing home resident.
All nursing home residents possess rights that protect them from suffering as a result of abuse or negligence. These rights vary from state to state. Most states have statutes specifically related to elder abuse and neglect. However, some states may use their general liability laws. Whatever the case is, every state will have some kind of protection.
Whether the harm happens because of understaffing or some other malice, knowing the rights of nursing home residents will prepare you to stand up for justice if these rights are infringed upon.
Signs of Nursing Home Neglect
There are a lot of uncertainties when it comes to nursing home neglect. That’s why it is important to be familiar with common signs, so you can stand up for your loved ones, especially if they cannot stand up for themselves. There are also several different forms of elder abuse, including physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect.
Sometimes it’s challenging to identify nursing home neglect. You suspect it, but how do you prove it? What if you’re wrong? If your loved one is suffering, why haven’t they said anything?
Here are some common signs you should look for.
Malnutrition and Dehydration
If your loved one is showing signs of malnutrition and dehydration, this could indicate abuse or neglect. While this isn’t always the case, it’s important to look for any indicators that could point to elder neglect.
Signs of malnutrition may include:
- Sudden weight loss
- Canker sores
- Muscle weakness
- A swollen cornea or glassy eyes
- Change in skin color
Signs of dehydration may include:
- Decrease in urine output
- Sticky and dry mouth
- Cracked lips
- Papery skin
If your loved one is exhibiting any of these symptoms, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions.
Bedsores or Pressure Ulcers
Bedsores are one of the most common signs of nursing home neglect. If there aren’t enough qualified people to move an individual as often as necessary, the skin will break down from the constant pressure.
This happens most often if your loved one has limited mobility capabilities and relies on a caregiver to move them. Most physicians will note how often a resident should be turned and repositioned.
Symptoms of bedsores include:
- Change in skin texture or color
- Swelling of the irritated area
- Tender areas
- Shift in temperature of the skin in an irritated area (cooler or warmer)
- Draining of pus
Bedsores typically occur on the tailbone, spine, and on the back of arms and legs. It depends on the position the person is usually in. It’s important to know that bedsores can develop in mere hours or take several days.
While bedsores can be easily treated with the proper care and medicine, they cannot be ignored. Left untreated, bedsores can progress rapidly, get infected, and cause serious permanent injury and even death. If your loved one is experiencing bedsores, there could be an underlying issue with the quality of care they are receiving.
Accidents such as broken or dislocated bones, bruises, or slip-and-falls are also indicators of elder neglect.
All of these accidents could result from rough handling during bed transfers, repositioning, and other events. If your loved one has an unexplained injury, it’s vital to inquire about the reasoning behind these accidents. Ask the facility about their reporting policies and follow up to make sure they are providing as much information as possible.
What Can You Do?
If you suspect negligence, you should take immediate action.
Victims and families can relay their concerns to Adult Protective Services. You can report this on their website through an online report, or you can call their hotline. However, if you feel that your loved one needs immediate help, their website directs you to contact 911 as soon as possible.
Once you have notified Adult Protective Services, they will investigate your reports. If your allegations have substantial evidence, Adult Protective Services will help the victim get out of the situation and make sure that it will never happen again.
Adult Protective Services provides medical assistance, counseling, financial assistance, special transportation, and possible transfer to another facility.
When You Need More Help
Sometimes families discover that these services were not as helpful as they had hoped. In these cases, families can turn to civil litigation to help prove nursing home neglect and hold responsible parties accountable.
In Oklahoma, elderly victims can file civil suits related to abuse and neglect. Victims can collect damages they have endured if your attorney provides evidence for neglect and the court rules in the plaintiff’s favor. They can also issue restraining orders to be free from neglect and the emotional stress of possible abuse.
There are a wide variety of other symptoms that could be a result of elder abuse or neglect. It is important to ask questions and stay informed. Ultimately, it may be best to simply talk to an experienced attorney at Maples, Nix & Diesselhorst to see what your next steps should be.
When you seek professional legal advice, your attorney knows the law surrounding elder negligence and will provide the evidence needed to prove that the defendant is liable for the harm they caused.
The answer is not always a lawsuit, and our elder abuse team can advise you either way. When you decide to take action and stand for justice, you are not only standing up for your loved one. You are helping families in the future not suffer as well.
The law firm of Maples, Nix, & Diesselhorst is standing with you.