Nursing Home Negligence: Know the Signs
The decision to place a loved one into a care facility is never easy; it's usually arrived at only when it becomes impossible or unsafe to care for them at home. Approximately two million Americans live in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes. While most facilities do their best to keep residents safe, some fail to live up to the standards of care established by the federal Nursing Home Reform Act, which was enacted to allow this vulnerable population to achieve or maintain the highest practicable level of physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being.
When you entrust your loved one to a nursing home, you have the right to expect that they will be cared for in accordance with these standards. However, very few people are able to monitor their loved ones' care at all times. How can you detect whether a family member is being neglected, or worse still, abused, by someone at their long-term care facility, especially if your loved one struggles to speak or communicate?
Signs of Nursing Home Neglect or Abuse
Some signs of neglect or abuse are obvious; others are more subtle. To complicate matters, the presence of one or more of these signs is not always conclusive evidence that a resident has been neglected or mistreated. However, you should be alert to signs of:
- Unexplained bleeding or bruising
- Bedsores, open wounds, or unexplained cuts on the skin
- Scrapes or abrasions
- Poor hygiene, soiling, and an odor of urine or feces
- Stained or bloody clothing or bed linens
- Sudden and/or dramatic loss of weight or hair
- Listlessness or lack of responsiveness
- Apparent dehydration
- Emotional withdrawal
- Regressive or childlike behavior
- Disappearance of resident's possessions or personal items
- Unusual transactions from resident's financial accounts
If you have observed any of these signs, you should feel comfortable calling them to the attention of the facility's management. If you do not feel that they are responsive to your questions, that itself is a reason for concern. Another red flag is if you come to the facility for a visit during regular visiting hours and find that your access to the resident is delayed or refused by staff, or if staff finds an excuse to remain in the room throughout your visit. They may be attempting to conceal something, or trying to prevent the resident from communicating with you.
What You Should Do if You Suspect Nursing Home Neglect
If you suspect nursing home neglect, and are not satisfied with the facility's response to your concerns, you can contact an appropriate state agency, such as Oregon Adult Protective Services or the Oregon Long-Term Care Ombudsman.
Although reporting potentially neglectful or abusive facilities to state agencies is important to preventing future harm to residents, a neglected or abused resident may be entitled to compensation for what he or she has suffered. We invite you to contact Huegli Fraser for a consultation. We will listen to your concerns and explore legal options that may be available to you. We believe strongly that the elderly and infirm, like other vulnerable populations, deserve respect and proper care. We are committed to standing up for their rights.
The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent medical malpractice attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.