Recognizing Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

When we entrust a nursing facility with caring for our parent, grandparent or elderly loved one, we never think that we could be putting them in jeopardy of neglect or abuse. But as he elderly population increases–in 2008 there were 3.2 million Americans living in nursing and long-term care facilities, and that figure is only growing–it is particularly important that we monitor our loved ones’ care and stay vigilant for signs of mistreatment

Unfortunately, many of those under full-time care are unable to communicate the abuse they suffer or do not have the capacity to do so. In fact, more than 5 million Americans over age 65 have some form of dementia, which can result in confusion about their treatment and surroundings. In a survey of 2,000 nursing home residents (a relatively small sample size) by the National Center on Elder Abuse, 44 percent of participants said they had suffered abuse, while 95 percent said they had been neglected or seen another resident neglected.

Signs of Neglect and Abuse

Nursing home neglect occurs when a resident fails to receive adequate care and is left alone or untreated, even when conditions arise. Signs of neglect include:

  • Uncharacteristic weight loss/failing to receive meals or nutrition
  • Bed sores
  • Being left soiled, dirty or unbathed
  • Dehydration

Elder abuse is more serious and implies intentional physical, emotional or sexual mistreatment rather than inadvertent negligence that results in neglect. There are more than 500,000 reports of elder abuse every year in the United States. Signs of abuse include:

  • Evidence of bruises, scars or other wounds
  • Inexplicable broken bones
  • Broken glasses, wheelchair, walker or other medical equipment
  • Verbal abuse or intimidation
  • Peculiar behavior, such as inexplicable loss of memory
  • Torn, stained or bloody clothing, particularly undergarments

Abuse and neglect are serious issues in nursing homes. Consult an attorney in Chicago if you suspect your loved one is a victim of mistreatment.

Lonely elder man lost in his mind
Smiling nurse taking care of old woman

How to Use Grades to Choose the Right Nursing Home

Making the decision to send a loved one into an assisted living, long-term care or nursing facility is never easy. For one, it can be difficult to accept that a parent, grandparent or other loved one has reached a point at which they can no longer care for themself. Additionally, with all the options available and the frightening stories of negative experiences, it can be difficult to know where to start. Fortunately, there are many useful resources available when the time comes. The Medicare website provides a tool called Nursing Home Compare that allows searchers to view ratings for all the facilities within a particular area, or lets users look up individual facilities by name. The ratings are based on:

  • History of health inspection results and complaints
  • Quality, licensing and size of staff
  • Measures meant to indicate the quality of care
  • Any history of penalties against the facility

This resource is a great place to start, as you can make a master list of potential homes and narrow it down from there. After making a master list, you should visit and evaluate based on the medical services they offer, the cleanliness and quality of the facilities and rooms themselves, the meal options, the social/lifestyle opportunities they provide, the availability for new residents and any other factors particularly important to your loved one (for some, they wish to be in a religiously-affiliated nursing home, while others wish to keep a pet, etc.). Cost and affordability is, of course, also a factor, although many facilities subsidize for Medicare and Medicaid. The Illinois Department of Public Health provides a useful checklist.

After visiting and comparing potential long-term care facilities and nursing homes, consider which will ultimately be the best fit for your loved one based on their own opinion. It’s important to help maintain the highest level of safety, comfort and quality of life possible. An attorney can also help you through this process.

Most Who Wander are Lost

What is elopement?

Among dementia patients, particularly those with Alzheimer’s disease, elopement refers to leaving one’s nursing, assisted living or long-term care facility without notice or approval and wandering away in public. When patients wander, they may initially have a destination, but often they eventually forget and end up disoriented, while sometimes the destination they are looking for no longer exists or never did..

Elopement is dangerous for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and other dementia conditions because they can get lost and be without identification, proper clothing or the means to return home. They are especially vulnerable to assault. Additionally, some who suffer from dementia can get combative or easily agitated and be unreceptive to help that is offered–or even violent toward anyone who approaches them.

Wandering and Negligence

About 5.1 million Americans over age 65 suffer from some level of dementia. Patients with certain types of dementia are more prone to wandering than others, and it is said to be more prevalent tendency in those with Alzheimer’s. And recent data indicate that as many as 60 percent of those with dementia will wander at least once. But in truth, nursing care and assisted living facilities should take measures to prevent elopement.

Often, those who wander have not been properly secured or monitored. Nursing homes should always monitor their entrances and exits and have regular checks to make sure residents are on the premises. Furthermore, they should have appropriate protocol set in case a resident goes missing. If a resident wanders and is injured or worse because he or she was neglected, the facility could face charges of negligence. If your loved one suffers harm or death while wandering from a nursing care facility, consult an attorney.

Lonely elder man sitting at a bench