Residents of nursing homes usually can’t take care of all their own needs. However, many of these homes are frequently overworked, underfunded and poorly vetted.
Staying vigilant and well informed about your loved one’s nursing home may help. And whether elected officials, inspectors, doctors and nurses, elder abuse attorneys or families, we all have a role to play. Here are some signs of abuse and neglect you can watch for.
Elders have a right to emotional health
This is a good place to start because all the rest can affect, or be affected by, the emotional health of your loved one. Psychological issues themselves can be serious, but they’re also valuable and sensitive indicators that physical neglect or abuse may be happening.
If your loved one is afraid of the staff or reluctant to talk in front of them or about them, they may be facing physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse. Consider seeking help if your loved one is surprisingly angry, distant, distressed or frightened.
Personal hygiene doesn’t need to decline
Many residents can’t do the some of the basic things we do, almost without thinking, to protect our health and dignity. Staff have a duty to help residents maintain an acceptable level of personal hygiene. If a resident isn’t getting the help they need to get dressed, brush their teeth, comb their hair, bathe, clip their fingernails and toenails, and so on, the home may be illegally providing inadequate care. Watch especially for poor dental health care.
Physical injuries are not okay
Unexplained or repeated bruises or broken bones may strongly suggest abuse or neglect. The injuries may be caused by direct assault, or simply by residents having to do things by themselves that they simply cannot safely do unassisted, such as stand, walk, bathe or the like.
Neglect can accelerate loss of mobility
Don’t assume less ability to move around, walk, or stand up is inevitable. Some residents even improve after moving into an assisted living facility. Watch for any rapid decline in muscle tone, balance, or strength, and for signs of bedsores or infections.
Dehydration and malnutrition tough to spot
These conditions can be harder to identify because other conditions can cause some of the same symptoms. Look for a pattern and/or get a second opinion.
Dehydration can show itself as:
- Thirst and loss of appetite.
- Dry skin and dry mouth.
- Red face and chills.
- Dark urine.
- Fatigue and weakness.
- Dizziness or lightheadedness.
Malnutrition might be the culprit if you notice:
- Weight loss.
- Canker sores, bright red mouth.
- White patches on cheeks or tongue.
- Fatigue or dizziness.
- Mental decline, memory loss, or confusion.
- Fragile bones, flaccid muscles, weakness.
- Red, glassy eyes or swollen corneas.
- Dry skin.