Not Just Bruises: Identifying Signs Of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse is a serious problem in the United States, and for simple reasons: there’s huge demand for skilled care, but there aren’t enough workers and the pay doesn’t match the labor involved. That means that some of the most vulnerable people in our community are receiving substandard and even downright abusive treatment. Worst of all, not all of the abuse is easily visible.
If you’re concerned about your elderly relative’s well-being, the best thing you can do is to know the signs of abuse and stay vigilant. Even just visiting your loved one regularly can make a big difference in how they’re treated and help you prevent serious harm or catch it before it escalates.
Elderly people get sick a lot, right? Not necessarily. While many older adults have compromised immune systems, they aren’t fated to be constantly ill, and frequent infections can be a sign of substandard care. As a visiting relative, you can help prevent infections by staying home when you’re sick and washing your hands frequently, but that’s not enough. If you’re noticing that your loved one is acquiring frequent infections while residing in a nursing home, ask about sanitary procedures, food preparation, and other possible sources of exposure that could be behind the repeat infections.
Many of us walk around mildly dehydrated all the time, and for healthy adults, it’s not a big deal. For nursing home patients, though, Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers say dehydration is a leading form of abuse. That’s because being dehydrated can increase the risk of infection in elderly patients, put strain on the organs, and increase lethargy and weakness. Unfortunately, since many older adults have a decreased sense of thirst, they may not advocate for themselves and care providers need to be vigilant about ensuring that they get enough fluids, including intravenous fluids, as some seniors may suffer dysphagia, placing them at risk of aspiration pneumonia.
If your loved one has entered a nursing home because they have mobility problems, you might think that it’s normal for them to spend most of their time in bed. That’s not necessarily the case, though. Even patients who are non-ambulatory or paralyzed should still be moved regularly, whether that’s changing position in bed or being transferred to various different seated positions. People who are not moved regularly can easily develop bedsores, which can cause sepsis, a deadly blood infection, or a bone infection known as osteomyelitis. Indeed, preserving mobility should be a top priority of any skilled nursing facility and while some decline is to be expected, significant loss of mobility can be a sign of neglect or abuse.
Seeing The Signs
Visiting your loved one regularly is one of the best ways to ensure that they’re not being abused, but you also need to be actively involved in their care. Talk to the staff about protocols, observe them, and do your best to communicate with your relatives about their experiences. Make it clear that you will trust what they say about their care and that you will do whatever you can to help them. Often, elderly patients in long-term care worry about what will happen if they speak out about their treatment, or have been threatened into compliance. Even changes in personality can be a sign of mistreatment.
There’s a growing body of information about abusive facilities, but new ones – and private individuals offering in-home care – are also implicated. Ultimately, quality care demands family involvement. Even if you can’t take charge, you can stay involved and help keep your loved one safe.