How to Spot Nursing Home Abuse – Signs to Watch Out For
Modern medicine and sanitation continue to extend human longevity to ever-greater records. But the cost of living longer is that often-times are loved ones become ever frailer, needing more attention, care and physical support as they age. At some point, most families face the agonizing realization that they’re no longer able to provide the required care an elderly loved one needs to maintain a happy, fulfilled existence. For many, there comes the point where they simply need more people and more time to continue to ably function. That’s where the assisted living facility comes into a family’s life.
Assisted living facility is a broad term that spans from nursing homes to medium-term, in-patient rehabs and everything in between. In essence, however, the vast majority of these facilities are for-profit, corporate businesses that families of the elderly or disabled pay to provide their loved one a level of care that the families themselves would provide if they had the same resources as the facility available in their own homes. Unfortunately, expectations don’t always meet reality and families who think they’re doing the best thing they can do by getting their loved one the care they need end up unwittingly putting the person in danger. The root of this danger often lies in chronic understaffing, to minimize corporate overhead and maximize corporate revenue, that results in neglect for the family member in need. That neglect can cause a cascade of potential life-threatening scenarios for the resident. These include things like falls, aspirations, and sepsis from bed sores or urinary tract infections due to the facilities’ lack of turning and mobilizing your loved one or timely attending to their toileting needs.
Placement of a loved one in an assisted living facility is never a set-it-and-forget-it option. It requires constant vigilance and communication with your loved one, the nurses and staff (whom you need to get to know), and the facility medical and other directors. There are a number of red flags to watch out for that can alert you as to when you need to elevate your involvement in your loved one’s care at the facility.
Communication breakdowns can often serve as an early warning indicator, and should not ever be taken lightly. As a family member, you should always have the ability to communicate with your loved one in a coherent, pleasant manner. If you cannot, either because you can’t reach them or when you can they seem out-of-it, the facility should be letting you know why the moment that communication breakdown occurs. If the facility fails to timely report any injury, incident, or early signs of illness to you, escalate your involvement until appropriate communication is restored.
Visit often. Being in the facility gives you a chance to keep tabs on the cleanliness of the facility and your loved one’s room. It also gives you a chance to connect with the care-takers and nurses who should become a big part of your lives. Talk with them. Get to know them, and how you can help make their care of your loved one most effective. Ask them how they’re treated, and if their fulfilled by their work at the facility.
Finally, always advocate for your family’s interests. This is the time for that – whether or not you’re comfortable doing it. Providing the best quality of life you can to a family member throughout their life is a team effort when it comes to an assisted living facility. And while the facilities’ players can be more equipped, no one is a better coach for that team than you.
Zak Zatezalo explains how to recognize nursing home abuse.