If you are like most people, you have great memories of the love and care your parents provided for you when you were growing up. Should you not provide this same level of care, or better, for your parents as they age? Unfortunately, if your parent resides in a nursing home, you may not be providing the care you think you are. Nursing home and elder abuse happens every day, and takes on many different forms. Although, you may never be able to fully ensure nothing bad happens, knowing what to look for, as well as what to do in the case of abuse will help to keep your loved ones safe.
What Is Nursing Home/Elder Abuse?
Many times nursing home abuse can manifest as abuse, neglect, or even the exploitation of the patients who are being served in the facility. In many states, these definitions can be broken down as follows:
Abuse is the willful infliction of injury, deprivation, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or cruel punishment resulting in physical harm, pain, or mental anguish.
Neglect is defined as the failure of a caregiver to provide food, shelter, medical services, and other forms of health care for a person who is unable to provide for themselves.
Exploitation is defined as the expenditure, diminution, or use of assets without their consent.
These can be broken down into six broad categories. They are:
- Physical Abuse
- Sexual Abuse
- Emotional Abuse
Most of these activities do not occur without signs this abuse is taking place.
What Are Signs Of Nursing Home Abuse?
No matter how good you think your parent's care is, you will always want to look for signs of nursing home abuse anytime you visit or speak with them. Some of these may be more obvious than others, and some signs may only take place in the presence of certain staff.
Your parent may exhibit one or more of the following:
- Signs of physical injury. These may include cuts, bruises, scratches, or even burns.
- Unexplained medical conditions such as sexually transmitted diseases
- Signs of poor personal hygiene, dehydration, malnutrition, weight loss, or other untreated medical issues
- Your parent may appear to be more upset or agitated than usual.
- They may be more withdrawn, non-responsive, or become non-communicative.
- Attempts to communicate with you by whispering, notes, or other unusual ways for fear of being overheard.
- Self reports they, or others in the facility, may be being verbally or emotionally mistreated.
- They may report being abandoned, or separated from the group, on community outings, at doctor's appointment, or other trips outside of the facility.
If you notice one, or more of these signs, there are steps you need to immediately take.
What Do You Need To Do To Keep Your Loved One Safe?
No matter how good the nursing home facility is, the patients who have regular visitors often get the most attention, and in turn the better care. Even if you live out of state, ensure your parent, or loved one, is having regular visits from someone. These visits may come from other relatives, family friends, or even clergy. If there is no one in the area, consider moving your relative closer to family and friends.
If you notice anything that causes you undo concern when you are visiting, immediately ask questions of the nursing staff or of the administration. Any type of physical injuries should be documented, and you should be provided documentation pertaining to when, as well as how the injury occurred.
Be concerned if you are not allowed to visit alone, or staff constantly makes excuses for the things your parent is saying. If you notice staff are unnecessarily hovering, ask to be alone, or ask if there is an area such as a garden, where you may be able to visit in private.
If you have reason to believe your parent is being abused, or are in imminent danger, confront the nursing home administration. Remain calm, and voice your concerns in a professional manner. Give them an opportunity to respond to your concerns. If not satisfied, follow through by making a report to the National abuse hotline, the Adult Protective Services department of your local department of social services, or if they cannot respond immediately, call 911.
Once your parent is safe, contact a personal injury/accident attorney who is experienced in the field of nursing home abuse. They will be able to help you, and your parent, receive appropriate financial compensation for what you have endured, as well as take steps to make sure no other family has to go through this.