Putting the care of our loved ones in the hands of others is a big step requiring a lot of trust. Even though nursing homes are supposed to nurture residents, not all facilities provide high-quality care and unfortunately Kentucky’s best facilities have waiting lists for admittance. But that shouldn’t keep your loved one from getting attentive, adequate care. No facility should neglect its residents.
The First Signs of Neglect
Are you concerned that your loved one is experiencing neglect from their long-term care facility? According to World Health Organization, 11.6% of elders in institutional settings have been abused by means of neglect, as reported by older adults and their proxies. And one in three nursing homes in Kentucky has been cited for violation that could cause harm to its residents. With that in mind, it is important for proxies to be aware of what to look for when they suspect neglect in a care facility. The following are first signs that a nursing home resident is being neglected:
- Dirty or uncombed hair. This could seem like a small detail to pay attention to, but basic hygiene is an essential part of a patient’s care. Neglecting to wash or brush hair could escalate into neglect of washing other parts of the body, or bathing in general.
- Offensive body odor. Odor caused by lack of bathing or unchanged soiled garments can quickly become unbearable. A step worse than dirty hair, this neglect of basic hygiene affects more than just the patient’s appearance. Uncleanliness can cause a decline in self-confidence and mental health. Poor hygiene could even spread illness, which could be dangerous in a nursing home full of elders with weaker immune systems.
- Lack of glasses, dentures, or hearing aids. All three of these objects are needs to be met in a long care facility. If necessities like this go missing or become broken, quality of life for the elderly is reduced. The absence of essentials like glasses and hearing aids limits social interaction and entertainment. Without dentures, it could be harder to chew, or the elder’s self-confidence could decline because of their appearance.
- Hoarding or unclean living environment. Hoarding can be a sign of social isolation. Residents who are neglected typically begin to hoard to regain a sense of control. Aside from hoarding, a resident’s room should be cleaned frequently. If it becomes unkempt and stays that way, the resident could be experiencing neglect. Much like poor personal hygiene, an unclean living environment can cause the spread of disease.
- Disinterest in socialization. When a person is neglected and has limited contact with others, they can start to isolate themselves as a means of coping. Your loved one might not be social when you visit. If this isolating behavior persists, they could be experiencing neglect.
- Problems communicating with staff. The staff of the long-term care facility should have open communication with you about your loved one’s health and any updates. They should inform you of any injuries or illnesses as soon as they can. Limited updates from staff or unwillingness to communicate could mean they are neglecting your loved one.
- Bedsores. Also known as pressure sores, these can develop in as little as four to six hours at patient’s bony points bearing weight while lying down, like hip or heel bones. Sores can become dangerous if necrosis occurs, meaning tissue within the sore has died, because serious infections can form and potentially lead to death.
- Unexplained weight loss. A caretaker could be withholding food and water which causes dehydration or malnutrition. It might take three to six months for the weight loss to become apparent. Basic life functions might become more difficult and quality of life could decline if the loss is drastic. On the more serious end, unintentional weight loss in the elderly increases the possibility of death.
Understanding What Limits Quality of Care
As the elderly population increases, care facilities become fuller, staffing becomes limited, and in an attempt for the facility to keep up, hasty new hires might not have all the qualifications necessary. The facility becomes unable to meet each patient’s needs when it is understaffed or staffed with underqualified employees. Though abuse caused by neglect is not always intentional, it is important to call employees’ attention to it so they can fix their practices. It’s important to remember that the elderly are human beings who deserve high-quality care and a high-quality of life. Neglect from a caretaker makes your loved one feel the opposite.
What Can You Do If You Suspect Neglect?
If you suspect your loved one is being neglected, you should first respectfully speak to their care manager and express your reasoning. If staff is dismissive or unwilling to speak to you, then there is further reason for suspicion. Kentucky is a mandatory reporting state regarding elder abuse, which includes neglect, so you are legally required to make a report to Adult Protective Services. If neglect persists, or you no longer feel comfortable keeping your loved one at that facility, you should move them to a facility that is more resident-focused.
If your concerns about neglect are not eased by speaking with staff members, you’ll need support from an attorney. Contact the Law Office of Todd W. Burris so we can discuss if you have a potential lawsuit. We can help ensure the safety of your loved one and hopefully create change within the facility so that others are not neglected.