Many Americans depend on nursing homes to care for their parents and other family members. Tragically, however, many of these facilities violate that trust. The Nursing Home Abuse Center reports that about 1-2 million senior citizens have suffered mistreatment, exploitation, or injury by caregivers. Abuse is often hard to identify because many victims are unwilling or unable to report it. What follows are some signs you should look for and what you can do if you suspect mistreatment.
Abuse takes many forms. It may be physical, sexual, emotional, financial, or otherwise. It is a sad reality that many caregivers, aware of their patients’ vulnerability, view them as easy targets. Neglect may include failure to properly supervise or feed a resident. Sometimes, mistreatment takes the form of intentionally failing to seek medical treatment for an accident victim. Other times, the problem may involve one patient being bullied by another while the nursing home fails to do anything.
COMMOM SIGNS OF NURSING HOME ABUSE
There is no comprehensive list of the different types of nursing home abuse or neglect. But these are some common signs of mistreatment:
- Malnutrition and dehydration
- Burns, blisters, and bruises
- Unexplained broken bones and related injuries
- Changes in behavior
- Poor hygiene
- Sudden or unexplained death when there were no urgent health problems
Abuse and neglect can have obvious negative physical consequences, which may get worse if the victim is in poor health or has suffered persistent mistreatment for a long period. If a patient is not receiving his or her medication, the condition being treated may worsen. It is important to take immediate action if there is any concern that someone is not receiving proper care.
There are some common causes of nursing home abuse and neglect. One is inexperienced or poorly trained staff members. In addition, facilities that are not properly managed can result in inattentive employees, which can lead to neglect. Keep these in mind when reviewing a facility’s reputation, either before or after a loved one takes residence there.
BE ON THE LOOKOUT DURING VISITS
Tragically, elder abuse is severely under-reported. Many patients fear retaliation for complaining about problems of any kind. For this reason, cases are often brought to light only after a concerned relative or staff member intervenes.
One way to prevent nursing home abuse and neglect is to visit the patient often, as the most vulnerable residents are those who receive the fewest visitors. Also, visiting a facility gives you the chance to see for yourself how it’s operated. Talk with staff and management and be on the lookout for unsafe or unsanitary conditions.
Georgia laws and regulations afford certain rights to nursing home residents. The purpose of these rules is to guarantee that facilities are clean, safe, and comfortable for their patients. For example, nursing homes must take reasonable steps to prevent falls. They also have to respect patient privacy, and a big part of that is allowing residents and their guardians to manage their own financial affairs. This, of course, does not totally prevent identity theft and other crimes. Make sure that the responsible party, or the patient him- or herself, is properly managing assets and money.
WHY YOU NEED A NURSING HOME ATTORNEY
The Georgia Department of Community Health is responsible for nursing home regulation. Among other resources, it maintains records on nursing home licenses and provides an online tool to file complaints. However, your first step should be to contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney. If left unattended, abuse and neglect can quickly compound existing health problems or create new ones. You may need swift legal action to prevent this, and the attorneys at Schneider Hammers may be able to help. Reach out today for a consultation and review of your legal options.