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Nursing Home Red Flags

Abused Elderly Woman

Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect Are Not Uncommon

Nursing home abuse and neglect are serious issues facing a growing elderly population in the United States. Abuse refers to any intentional act that causes harm or distress to a resident, while neglect is the failure to provide for a resident's basic needs. These can take many forms, including physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, financial exploitation, neglect (of hygiene, medication, or medical needs), and sexual abuse.

Statistics paint a concerning picture. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) shared that roughly 1 in 10 nursing home residents experience some form of abuse. A staggering 66% of staff members in a 2022 World Health Organization study admitted to some type of abuse or neglect, highlighting the prevalence of the issue.

It's important to remember that these numbers likely underestimate the true scope of the problem. Fear, shame, or residents' cognitive impairments can prevent them from reporting abuse.

While legal action can be taken against the negligent or abusive party, no one wants to get to that point. In this blog, we will discuss questions you should ask and signs you should be aware of when trying to identify whether a nursing home and its staff are safe.

Nursing Home Red Flags

Here is what you should look for as it relates to red flags for abuse or neglect:

  • Unexplained injuries. Bruises, cuts, burns, or broken bones that appear suddenly and lack a clear explanation could be signs of physical abuse.
  • Poor hygiene. Residents who are left unbathed or in dirty clothes for long periods of time may be neglected.
  • Bedsores. Bedsores are a sign that a resident is not being turned and repositioned regularly, which can be a form of neglect.
  • Dehydration or malnutrition. Residents who appear dehydrated or malnourished may not be getting the fluids or food they need.
  • Withdrawal or depression. A resident who seems withdrawn, depressed, or fearful may be being abused.
  • Agitation or anxiety. Residents who are unusually agitated or anxious may be reacting to abuse or neglect.
  • Dirty or unsanitary conditions. A nursing home that is dirty or unsanitary may be a sign that residents are not being cared for properly.
  • Unpleasant smells. Strong odors of urine, feces, or other bodily fluids may indicate that residents are not being toileted properly or that the facility is not being cleaned well.

Questions to Ask a Nursing Home

Choosing a nursing home is a big decision, and ensuring a safe and positive environment is a top priority. While the red flags we mentioned focused on what to look for in residents, you can also look at the facilities themselves for signs that they (or the staff there) are a danger. Below, we discuss what you should ask to help you assess how safe a nursing home is for residents (including your loved ones):

Ask questions regarding staffing and care, including questions related to:

  • Staff-to-resident ratio. This indicates how many residents each caregiver is responsible for. Lower ratios generally mean more personalized attention. Ask about the ratio for different care levels (independent living vs. skilled nursing).
  • Staff qualifications and training. Inquire about staff certifications, experience levels, and training programs related to abuse prevention and resident care.
  • Staff turnover rate. High turnover can disrupt resident care and relationships. Ask about the average length of staff employment.
  • Resident care plans. How are individualized care plans developed, reviewed, and updated?
  • Resident interaction. Observe staff interactions with residents during your tour. Do they appear respectful, patient, and attentive?

Question and research the safety measures in place by asking about:

  • Licensing and inspection history. Research the facility's licensing status and inspection reports from the state health department website. Ask about any recent citations or violations.
  • Security measures. Inquire about security protocols to prevent unauthorized access and ensure resident safety.
  • Emergency preparedness. What are the procedures for emergencies like fires, power outages, and natural disasters?
  • Fall prevention. How does the facility prevent falls, a major safety concern for elderly residents?
  • Infection control. Ask about the facility's infection control measures to prevent the spread of illness.

Ask about the residents’ environment and rights by questioning the following:

  • Cleanliness and maintenance. Is the facility clean, well-maintained, and free of hazards?
  • Resident rooms and common areas. Observe the living spaces. Are they comfortable, well-lit, and personalized?
  • Activities and social opportunities. Does the facility offer a variety of engaging activities to promote resident well-being and social interaction?
  • Resident rights and complaints. How are resident rights protected? What is the process for filing complaints and grievances?

It would help if you also asked questions that relate to financial structure and policies as it relates to:

  • Cost structure. Clearly understand all fees associated with residency, including base rates, add-on services, medication management costs, and potential changes based on care needs.
  • Financial management. How are resident funds handled? Who has access to resident accounts?

If possible, you should try to talk to current residents and their families about their experiences. While online reviews can be great sources of information, getting in-person feedback and having access to someone who can give you answers to specific questions is invaluable.

It is also important that you consider making unannounced visits to observe the facility during different times of the day. A nursing home that makes it difficult for family members or friends to visit residents may be trying to hide something.

Experienced Counsel in Nursing Home Abuse Cases

At the Law Offices of Charles R. Gueli, our attorney is backed by over 25 years of legal experience. We represent victims of nursing home abuse (and their families) and can help in the pursuit of restitution for injuries and losses.

Schedule an initial consultation today by calling (516) 628-6402.

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