As your loved one ages or as his or her health worsens, you may consider placing this family member in a nursing home. After all, you may not have the training, time, or ability to provide your loved one with the extensive care he or she needs. But you worry about how your loved one will be treated once admitted to a care facility.
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), 1 in 10 elders experience some form of abuse or neglect while in the care of a nursing home. The NCEA also states that only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse are reported to the authorities.
Despite these alarming statistics, you can take steps to protect your loved one from nursing home abuse or neglect. Read on to learn how you can improve your family member’s safety and what you should do in the event of abuse or neglect.
Ask About the Facility and Staff
Before your loved one enters a nursing home or long-term care facility, take a tour of the property. Note the condition of the building, the quality of the rooms, and the types of amenities the facility offers. As you take a tour of the facility, observe the staff members and how they interact with the residents.
If possible, talk to the facility director. Ask him or her about the process of hiring staff. For example, you could ask if the hiring committee conducted background checks and drug tests on each employee before offering a position. You can even ask if the facility has had any previous incidents of elder abuse or neglect.
As you ask questions, you can better decide which facility best fits your loved ones needs-and which facility staffs responsible, trustworthy aides.
Remember to tour a few different facilities so you have a clear understanding of the care options available to your loved one.
Know the Types of Abuse
When you hear the word “abuse,” you likely think of physical abuse. While nursing home residents can endure physical abuse from staff members and other residents, there are other forms of abuse that occur. Elder abuse can include emotional, verbal, sexual, and financial abuse, as well as neglect.
The most common neglect- and abuse-related issues include:
- Improper transfers
- Unnecessary sedation
- Medication errors
- Medication overdoses
- Wandering from the facility
- Yelling or insults
Unfortunately, some forms of abuse can lead to death. When you visit your loved one, watch out for any of the signs listed above. If you do notice that your loved one has suffered from an item on this list, contact an attorney immediately. You will also want to move your loved one to another care facility or to your home (if possible) to prevent additional abuse or neglect.
Note Any Warning Signs
To clearly determine if your loved one has suffered abuse from a nursing home employee or another resident, keep an eye out for the following warning signs:
- Cracked lips or dry mouth, which indicate dehydration
- Difficulty moving
- Foul body odor
- Lack of interest
- Missing money
- Muscle weakness
- Open wounds and bed sores
- Poor hygiene and grooming
- Rashes, including diaper rash
- Sleeping more often than normal
- Swollen tongue
- Unexplained injuries, including dislocated or broken bones, scratches, burns, and bruises
- Unexplained illness
- Weight loss
If you notice any of these warning signs and suspect abuse, contact the proper authorities. Start by getting in touch with North Carolina’s Long Tern Care Ombudsman, Social Services Department, or Adult Protective Services, and contact a legal professional.
Understand Your Loved One’s Legal Rights
Regardless of your loved one’s physical or mental state, he or she has legal rights. State and federal laws provide specific protections and rights for nursing home residents. The Nursing Home Reform law and the Older Americans Act protect nursing home residents on the federal level. State laws differ, but most typically outline:
- The duties of facility staff.
- The ethical code by which facility staff should care for residents.
- The obligation nursing home staff members have to report abuse and neglect.
- The residents’ specific rights.
- The rights a loved one has to act on behalf of the nursing home resident.
Even if your loved one cannot advocate for himself or herself in the event of abuse, you still have to right to act in your loved one’s behalf. Familiarize yourself with the rights your loved one has as a nursing home resident. One of the attorneys at Hardee, Massey & Blodgett would be happy to explain those rights to you.
Take the steps listed above to protect your loved one from nursing home abuse, injury, and neglect. Should your loved one sustain injury or wrongfully pass away while in the care of a nursing home facility, contact our law firm immediately. Our experienced and trusted attorneys can help you file a claim against the offending party and ensure you and your loved one receive compensation.