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Buzzell, Welsh & Hill
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How to Carefully Watch for Signs of Nursing Home Neglect


It’s difficult and emotional to decide that an elderly loved one should enter a nursing home. It means that he or she cannot take care of as well as they used to do. They need constant medical attention and help with daily living. When you’re selecting a nursing home, you are entrusting a staff of people to take care of your loved one’s most essential needs.

That’s why neglect is so awful at a nursing home. It’s the nursing home staff’s job to take care of a person’s essential needs. To neglect those needs puts your loved one’s life at risk and make every day miserable for them.

Nursing homes may neglect residents in one or all of the following areas:

Medical Neglect

Nursing home residents need medication, regular checkups, and ongoing medical care. Usually, they will have some kind of major health issue or just struggle with the effects of aging. Without regular preventative care, your loved one may grow dangerously sick and existing health conditions may worsen.

Physical Neglect

A comfortable, clean environment is essential for everyone — but especially for the elderly in nursing homes because they cannot clean or maintain their environment as well as younger people. That means regularly making sure that nursing home residents have bathed or showered, wear clean clothes, sleep in clean bedding, and have access to enough food and water. Physical neglect worsens medical conditions and also demoralizes people, leading to depression and emotional issues.

Emotional Neglect

Everyone has social needs and the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Emotional neglect may mean that staff rarely check in on your loved one, don’t provide enough social or recreational activities, or treat your loved one with nastiness, coldness, or disrespect. This kind of neglect adds up over time and can lead to depression, emotional stress, and worsened medical conditions.

Unlike nursing home abuse, medical, physical and emotional neglect can be harder to spot, especially if your loved one has dementia or doesn’t like to speak about how they are treated on a daily basis. First, listen to anything your loved one tells you about neglect. But if they are unwilling or unable to talk about it, look for the following signs:

  1. Unexplained health issues. Look for anything happening to your loved one that can’t be easily explained by their current health situation. For example, your loved one may start to suddenly lose weight, which may be a sign that they’re not fed enough each day. Another example is bedsores, a common sign of neglect caused when bedridden people or people with limited mobility (such as those who use a wheelchair) cannot turn themselves over in bed without help.
  1. Physical signs of a bad living environment. A simple inspection of your loved one’s room, outside hallways, and other main rooms at the nursing home can show signs of physical neglect. In your loved one’s room, look for things like a lack of running water or hot water, poor heating and air conditioning, problems with electricity and electrical outlets, dirt and filth that isn’t cleaned up (especially in the bathroom), problems with doors and windows, and objects in the way that don’t need to be in the room. Especially inspect your loved one’s bed to make sure it looks safe and clean to sleep in.
  1. Bad or non-existent help from staff. While staff might act their best while you’re around, you may still notice signs of neglect from their behavior. Is the nursing home severely understaffed? How often does a person come by to check on your loved one? Does your loved one hold suspicious feelings of anger or frustration about the staff? Is the staff rude and cold to you and your loved one? Anyone can be in a bad mood, but repeated, regular indicators of cold, rude behavior from the staff may be a sign of neglect.

If you notice signs of neglect, and the nursing home isn’t making visible efforts to correct their mistakes, call us for a free consultation. Neglect can be a life or death issue for your loved one—so don’t wait.

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