Elder neglect, which is failing to fulfill a care-taking obligation, makes up more than half of all reported cases of elder abuse. Elder law differentiates elder neglect as active (intentional) or passive (unintentional). Many issues that involve nursing home neglect are normally passive neglect, often caused by staffing shortages, a lack of sufficient training and the failure to realize a patient needs more oversight than they are receiving.
Frequent visits and intervention from loved ones can not only help curb nursing home neglect, but can help spot the warning signs early on. Signs to be on the lookout for include:
- Bed sores – particularly if they are not being properly treated;
- Poor patient hygiene;
- Unsuitable clothing or bedcoverings for the temperature;
- Unsafe conditions in the room or facility, such as tripping hazards or lack of oversight of entrances and exits;
- Dirty living conditions such as unmopped floors and dirty furnishings;
- Unusual weight loss, dehydration or malnutrition; and
- Lack of medical care.
Not only should you visit your elderly loved one frequently, but make unscheduled visits to give you an idea of the level of care and attention that the patient is receiving. You also have the right to review your family member’s medical records with their permission, or as their health care proxy. Look for any changes in their physical condition and review their medications.
Establishing a relationship with your relative’s caregivers can help not only when you are asking questions and reviewing their care, but in ‘humanizing’ them to their caregivers. A conversation about the patient’s interests in their younger days may just spark a caregiver into giving more care and attention to your loved one, and help give them a topic of conversation with the patient.
Staying engaged and involved can not only spot nursing home neglect before it becomes an issue, but helps avoid it as well. Your loved one has rights, and if you feel those rights have been violated, you should speak with a nursing home attorney.