As our parents and loved ones age, it can be nerve wracking enough trying to make decisions about how best to care for them without having to worry that their hired care providers will abuse or neglect them. Especially for our aging friends and family who are suffering from conditions that reduce their abilities to understand what is happening and/or communicate what has happened, if loved ones are best served living in out-of-home care facilities it is important to know what “red flags” to watch out for, and what to do if you see them.
“Obvious” Red Flags
Some signs of nursing home neglect and abuse are easy to see, and would make most people at least a little concerned.
- Poor Personal Hygiene
One of the most common reasons our elderly live in nursing homes and similar facilities is that they have trouble independently performing the daily tasks of life. That includes activities most of us hardly think about, such as bathing, brushing our teeth, or combing our hair. If your loved one frequently displays poor personal hygiene when you visit them, it could be a sign that the staff isn’t providing services up to expectations, and could be an indicator of a larger problem.
- Dirty Facilities
Both federal and California law have requirements for nursing homes and other facilities, including requiring that the premises be kept safe and sanitary. If that doesn’t seem to be the case, it could be cause for concern. For example, if your loved one’s room is frequently messy, if the facility’s windows or walls are dirty, or if there is usually clutter in the hallways, you should at least be on alert that there could be a problem.
Less Apparent Signs of Abuse and Neglect
Unfortunately, many signs of abuse and neglect are not as readily apparent, and many can be confused with normal symptoms of aging.
- Weight Loss
Weight loss is common in elderly people, and can happen for all sorts of reasons. But weight loss that occurs suddenly or unexpectedly can be a sign that your loved one isn’t receiving proper nutrition, which is a problem the nursing home should address. Whether your loved one is simply having trouble swallowing, the food provided at the nursing home is insufficient, or a malicious staff member is actively denying your loved one access to proper meals, that is a problem the nursing home is responsible for addressing.
- Reduced Mobility
Many of our elders have difficulty getting around, and it’s a problem that increases over time. Some degree of reduced mobility should be expected, but our aging loved ones should also be exercising and otherwise doing their best to maintain the independence they do have. Sudden or unexpected reductions in mobility can be indications that your loved one’s care facility isn’t providing adequate opportunities for physical activity and exercise.
- Unexplained Injuries
One of the most alarming indicators that there could be a problem at your loved one’s care facility is unexplained injuries. As we age our bodies become more frail, and sometimes minor bruising and other mild injuries happen. But nursing homes and similar care facilities should be safe places for our vulnerable elderly. Abundant precautions should be in place to prevent falls and other accidents that can cause significant health problems for aging residents. In the worst cases, unexplained injuries could be an indication that a staff member is physically abusing your loved one, so such injuries should always cause you to ask lots of questions.
- Changes in Affect
Finally, your loved one’s mood and mental state can be important indicators of the type of care they are receiving. If he or she seems moodier than usual, seems afraid of the facility staff, or seems very withdrawn, it could be a signal that the staff is isolating your loved one or otherwise neglecting or abusing him or her.
If you’re concerned about a loved one who is living in a nursing home or other similar care facility, it can be stressful to figure out what to do. Our firm’s attorneys frequently handle abuse and neglect cases for elderly clients, and are experienced in both the responsibilities of care facilities as well as recognizing and addressing problems in those facilities. If you have questions about the care your loved one is receiving, contact J&Y Law today for a free consultation.