Have you recently moved your mom or dad to a skilled nursing facility or assisted living residence? Perhaps you are thinking of doing so but have some concerns. We get it. There is a lot to think about. Many people are worried about possible neglect or even abuse of their loved ones.
Despite the fact that abuse is quite rare, when it does happen, it makes headlines, and can be very concerning for families who have loved ones in a nursing home. It’s important to remember that the caretakers who work in nursing homes are your allies and they care. They have hard jobs to perform in difficult times. Many of us were clanging pots and pans to recognize their heroism early in the pandemic.
Abuse vs. Neglect
Federal regulations state that a skilled nursing facility or assisted living resident “has the right to be free from verbal, sexual, physical, or mental abuse, corporal punishment, and involuntary seclusion.” Clear definitions of abuse and neglect provide professionals with the guidelines they need to ensure staff compliance.
Abuse is considered intentional and relates to any injury, intimidation, confinement that causes pain, anguish, or bodily harm. Neglect can be intentional or unintentional and is a failure to provide reasonable care and the services necessary to prevent harm or pain. Neglect also encompasses a failure to address dangerous or potentially dangerous circumstances.
Some Signs of Elder Abuse or Neglect
No one knows your parent as well as you do, so you are the one most likely to sense if something is off. Some older people will speak openly to their grown children about mistreatment, but others fear reprisal from the staff and stay quiet. So be alert and ask your parent gentle, probing questions.
Some common signs of abuse and neglect include:
● Frequent infections
● Poor hygiene, body odor, stained/unwashed clothes
● Wounds, cuts, bruises, etc. in various stages of healing
● Broken bones, unexplained fractures or head injuries, bed injuries or bed sores
● Frequent falls
● Symptoms of malnutrition or Dehydration
● Apparent sedation
● Rapid changes in weight
● Marked agitation
● Withdrawal and reduced communication
● Depression or anxiety
Some red flags are found in the environment itself. They include:
● A dirty or cluttered environment
● An overwhelming smell of urine or feces
● Unresponsive or absent staff (call buttons not answered)
● Loose fixtures and railings
● Non-working call buttons
● Loud ambient noise
● Low-quality meals
● Irregular meal delivery times
What to Do if Abuse or Neglect is Present
If you are concerned about possible neglect or abuse, the first step is to have a conversation with the social worker and then the administrator. Because you want to be allies, not adversaries, be open-minded and civil, and avoid accusatory questions or inflated/unsubstantiated claims. Staying calm and focused can be hard if you are genuinely worried, but you’ll have better results.
Once you have gone through the in-house channels, if you are not satisfied or continue to be concerned, it’s time to go further.
How to report abuse at assisted living or nursing home facilities?
● Contact your state’s adult protective services (APS)
● Reach out to a long-term care ombudsman (part of a federal advocacy program for people in nursing homes)
● Call a nursing home abuse hotline
Of course, elder neglect and abuse in assisted living facilities and nursing homes is illegal, and this population is particularly vulnerable due to their dependence. If you believe your loved one’s safety is at risk, you have every right to remove them from the facility, but remember, they need care, so have a plan in place as to where you are taking them. In most cases, there are satisfactory solutions and explanations, and residents like your loved one can continue to be cared for and safe.