Nursing Home Negligence and Elder Neglect
Nursing home neglect is an appalling but surprisingly common occurrence in the United States. Even though the majority of nursing facilities provide their residents with care, dignity, and respect, there are other facilities that grossly fail to meet even a basic standard of care—this is the very definition of these facilities neglecting their residents.
Although neglect is less likely to occur in nursing homes and other senior care facilities than within an elder’s own home, data supports that it happens far more often than recognized and many of these cases should be represented by skilled and experienced nursing home neglect attorneys.
Nursing homes neglect is most often the result of inadequate staffing at a facility. Stressed or overworked employees may not be able to provide the quality of care necessary, resulting in negligence. Staff and facilities may be actively aware of the neglect, while other facilities may not be cognizant of their short-staffing issues. Regardless, the inability to provide an elder’s basic needs is neglect, and that circumstance is always unacceptable.
Types of Nursing Home Negligence and Elder Neglect
Elder neglect can be intentional or accidental; either instance is a form of elder abuse.
In some cases, it’s evident that the neglect is causing direct harm to an elder. These cases of elder neglect are certainly a more severe form of abuse and typically overlaps with physical or emotional abuse. Those individuals who recognize that they are neglecting an elder and willingly continue their behavior must be held directly responsible for their actions.
More commonly, caregivers neglect elders due to a lack of resources or support. For example, understaffed nursing homes may choose to maintain less-than-normal weekly bath quotas or may result in an environment where individuals only receive care on a pre-set schedule without time for necessary scheduling modifications when unexpected elder needs arise.
Consequences of Nursing Home Neglect for Elders
Nursing home negligence can have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of elder residents. Hygiene, physical and mental health can be directly affected in numerous ways:
- Hygiene consequences
- Bad odor/smell
- Dirty skin or orifices
- Unclean clothes
- Ill-fitting, damaged or missing clothes
- Potential health consequences
- Untreated medical/dental issues
- Failure to provide proper medication
- Recurring sicknesses
- Repetitive injuries
- Weight loss/malnutrition
- Social & Emotional Consequences
- Unpaid bills or other debts
- Personality changes
- Depression, anxiety or fear
- Isolation and loneliness
- Loss of trust in others
- Insomnia or sleep loss
- Substance use or abuse
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
- In the most severe cases, elder neglect in nursing homes may result in death
Signs & Symptoms of Elder Neglect In Nursing Homes
Neglect can be extraordinarily difficult to detect. Neglect is also most likely to happen to people with mental impairments, like dementia, making it even more challenging to identify and resolve.
However, there are some common symptoms of nursing home abuse and neglect that can help identify when an elder is being abused or neglected:
- Bruises, lacerations, skin tears, broken bones & other physical injuries
- Bedsores/pressure sores/ulcers
- Excessive use of restraints (physical or medical)
- Malnutrition and Dehydration
- Improper medications:
- Incorrect medication dosages given or prescribed
- Ineffective medications being prescribed long-term
- Prescriptions with conflicting medications or excessive side effects
- Burns, often accidentally self-inflicted
- Hygiene and unexplained odor issues
- Insomnia/sleep loss
Severe Emotional Distress
Occasionally, nursing home patients will fall victim to intentional inflictions of emotional distress. While symptoms may be difficult to identify, psychological abuse can take a variety of forms, such as humiliation, scapegoating, isolating or ignoring an elder. In such cases, victims may be able to receive compensation for the events.
How to Prevent Nursing Home Negligence
Physical injuries resulting from neglect often result from situations that are entirely preventable. For example, a staff member who rushes through their tasks due to understaffing may unintentionally cause an elder’s injury or fall.
Elderly individuals who have been hurt while in a nursing home may not be receiving the proper level of assistance. For example, an elder in a living facility who accidentally starts a fire in their living room may need more supervision than they’re receiving. Caregivers should be responsible for recognizing these situations and acting on them immediately.
Enabling seniors to have a strong social community is a strong way to help prevent neglect. An individual surrounded by friends, family, and visitors are less likely to become victims of neglect, and these social interactions should, therefore, be supported and encouraged within the nursing home and family environments.
Fear of a Caregiver
A nursing home patient who is the victim of any form of neglect will likely grow fearful of a caregiver. If your loved one is showing signs that indicate fear such as acting disconnected from family and friends or acting out in a different way, they may be receiving poor and unlawful treatment related to nursing home negligence.
Potter Burnett Law will carefully review the evidence or signs to ensure that the patient is placed out of harm’s way and receives justice where due. The lawyers at Potter Burnett Law in Bowie, MD have the experience to represent you and your loved ones in cases of nursing home negligence and elder neglect.