You left your loved one in a nursing home believing that they’d get the right care. You checked in regularly, and everything seemed to be fine.
Then, the last time you went in to visit your father, you found that he wasn’t acting normal. He was withdrawn and quiet. It was nothing like his normal personality.
After you reached out to the staff, you found that he was given a drug to sedate him. There was no reason for this, you believe, because he had no history of violence, anxiety or other issues that could lead to him harming himself or others. You knew that some nursing homes would use physical restraints on patients who were fall-risks, but you never thought that chemical restraints would be used without talking to you and your father’s doctor first.
Chemical restraints are not always the best idea for nursing home patients. They can be essential in moments where someone is lashing out or going to hurt someone, but they’re not necessary on a daily basis. They aren’t there for convenience.
You were frustrated and upset, so you took your father out of the facility immediately. The nursing home director was informed, and they tried to stop you. They justified the use of the medications by saying that your father had been coming out of his room late at night when fewer staff members were available, but that didn’t seem right to you.
If you’re worried that your loved one was abused or neglected as a result of this situation, speak out. Our website has more on nursing home abuse and what you can do to make this situation right.
Many nursing homes have programs that help keep the residents active and engaged with others. Unfortunately, there are times when residents might be unable to utilize those programs, which can lead to loneliness for them. While it might not seem like that’s a huge deal, there are some serious consequences that can come from this situation.
Residents who spend time with others are more likely to have a healthier mental state than those who spend most of their time alone. Being by themselves can lead to depression. There’s also the matter of them being unable to ask others for help if they need it.
Adults who live in long term care facilities are more likely to feel safer when they can interact with others. They feel more confident to speak up if there is a problem with the care they’re receiving. They have a chance to speak to others about what’s going on.
In some cases, social interaction helps the residents keep their mental faculties about them. Some of the activities in nursing homes, such as craft times, help the residents with their motor skills. Losing the ability to do these things can cause their abilities to decline, which is often traumatic for them.
While most people who have loved ones in nursing homes know the residents count on those activities, they also count on their family members and friends to check on them. If you discover that activities and interactions have been reduced or cancelled, try to find ways to check in with them. Unfortunately, isolation can sometimes cause an increase in nursing home abuse and neglect, so stopping those when they occur is imperative.
As the Covid-19 virus spread around the world, it’s important to remember that elderly people and people with serious health conditions are most at risk from the breathing problems it causes. A nursing home is already a hotbed of problems when it comes to preventing the transmission of communicable diseases, so that makes those seniors in care centers especially vulnerable.
If your loved ones are among the 4 million seniors who are nursing home residents in the United States or you have a loved one who is heading into a nursing home, here are the things to remember during this global health crisis:
- Look for staffing problems. Understaffing is already a serious concern when it comes to nursing home neglect, but it’s even worse when there’s the threat of disease. Many nursing home aides are rushed, and they often forget to wash their hands between patients (if they are even given time).
- Visit frequently when you can. Even if you have to wear a mask to visit your loved one, make the effort if you can safely do so. The staff (and administrators) are well-aware of which patients have family members who are concerned and involved in their care.
- Limit day trips. If you normally take your senior relative on outings or out to dinner to get away from the nursing home for a bit, it’s wise to limit those events for the time being. This can help keep your loved one from becoming a carrier for the virus.
- Remove your loved one. If possible, you may want to take your loved one out of the care facility for a while. While most people don’t have this option, a lucky few may be able to afford home care services until after the virus begins to wane.
- Check-in often. Check with your loved one often to make sure that they’re getting the right care. Ask about what they’ve eaten and had to drink so that you know they’re hydrated and getting the right nutrition. That will help them fight off any viral infections that may be around.
If you suspect that nursing home neglect contributed to a viral outbreak of Covid-19 or anything similar, and your loved one was negatively affected, it may be wise to consult an attorney about your legal rights.
Anywhere that a large population of a single species exists, pests invariably show up. It doesn’t take a young adult living independently very long to realize that if they don’t take out the trash, they will have to deal with mice, cockroaches or other pests as a result of that neglect. Proper cleanliness and attention to detail is the only way for people living in shared spaces to avoid infestations.
Unfortunately, the overworked and often underpaid staff at the average nursing home may not care that much about cleanliness if they can barely make it to each of their residents once per shift. As someone with a loved one in an assisted care facility, you want to know that your family member receives an appropriate standard of care. Any sign of pests or insects is a red flag for neglect in the facility.
Rodents, lice and even scabies can spread quickly in nursing homes
Pests that attack the human body or live off of human refuse don’t take very long to colonize a space. Even clean facilities can wind up with a minor infestation caused by someone bringing pests in from outside. At good facilities, residents receive routine checks to ensure that they are clean and healthy. Those checks should alert staff right away to the presence of dangerous pests and infestations.
Rodents can bring with them filth and disease, while lice, scabies and other infestations that directly attack the human body can cause a host of medical symptoms, including potentially fatal injuries and infections. Simply having a loved one with a mild case of lice or even scabies is not necessarily indicative of neglect. However, any untreated infestation is a red flag.
Your loved one should have access to the best care, and the facility should undergo drastic cleaning and quarantine procedures to limit the spread of the infestation and protect their residents. If a facility does not take timely action to help heal your loved one and clean the space in which they live, you may need to take legal action to force them to do so.
If you think, judging from the news media, stories from friends and family or your personal experience, that American nursing homes are in crisis, you’re in good company.
Increasingly, the most vulnerable Americans have had to rely on families to help monitor facility conditions, pressure legislators and regulators, and hold facility owners accountable through the civil courts.
Lawsuits and investigations shut down questionable company
A New Jersey nursing home company was recently hit with more than a dozen lawsuits brought by families alleging their loved ones suffered neglect.
The company had ballooned in just a few years to more than 100 nursing homes in 11 states and was entrusted with more than 7,000 vulnerable residents. The operation was run out of a tiny office above a corner pizzeria in Wood Ridge, New Jersey.
Medicare and Medicaid account for the large majority of funds in America’s nursing home system, and the New Jersey company was reportedly used to syphon funds from the hundreds of millions of dollars its homes received from government-operated healthcare systems.
The operation has since collapsed in a cloud of negligence allegations, unpaid bills, and civil lawsuits filed by families and state governments.
GAO criticizes Medicare for not calling the police
This summer, the General Accounting Office criticized the federal government’s failure to alert state law enforcement when nursing home abuse is reported to Medicare.
The GAO investigators found that reports of abuse doubled in the five years before 2018. Such reports included sexual abuse 18% of the time, and physical and mental abuse each appeared about 45% of the time.
The GAO recommends Medicare to require states to immediately refer complaints to state law enforcement, confirm that they’re doing so, and guide states on what information ought to be reported.
Nursing home abuse occurs more often than children or friends of older individuals may know. One of the reasons this type of abuse or neglect can happen is because of understaffing within a care facility.
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), elder abuse often goes unreported and under-reported. For every known case of abuse, there are 24 unknown.
Causes of understaffing
There can be many factors that cause understaffing in nursing homes, but big ones include:
- Cost: Hiring fewer employees or individuals who do not have proper qualifications to work in a care facility can make it so that residents do not receive the care they need and deserve. Similarly, many employees find the position difficult and choose to quickly relocate to another job, which can leave the remaining staff to pick up extra work.
- Overtime: Because there are not enough employees, staff may choose to require overtime, which can create problems for residents.
Effects of understaffing
Most of the effects of understaffing correlate directly to the quality of life of the facility’s residents. Possibly the most common type of nursing home abuse that is seen in understaffed facilities is neglect. However, stress from understaffing could cause staff members to act out, abusing residents in other ways. Effects of understaffing on the residents include:
- Lack of hygiene
- Lack of social interaction
- Bedsores/ infections due to lack of continuous care
- Not taking medication regularly
- Weight loss/ malnutrition
Noticing that a parent or loved one in a nursing home facility is not getting the care that they need is significant. Nursing home understaffing may be to blame.
More than 2 million cases of elder abuse are reported each year — a number that is suspected to be vastly underrepresented. If you suspect that a parent or elderly loved one may be subjected to abuse or neglect from nursing home caregivers, it’s important to take action.
An attorney can help bring claims against the nursing home, depending on the circumstances surrounding your case. Read on to learn more about the help a lawyer can provide.
Symptoms of elder abuse can often be confused with symptoms of dementia. The psychological impact of emotional abuse may result in behavior that looks like dementia, such as rocking, sucking or talking to themselves.
A lawyer can help these adults take action by gathering legal evidence, such as:
- 911 tapes or other phone call records
- Visitor logs
- The criminal background of a caregiver
- Other arrest or negligence reports of the home
- Professional opinions of medical examiners, handwriting analysts, forensic professionals and more
The attorney will also help you gather other types of evidence that may be used in court, such as medical records, credit card statements, wills, witnesses, videos/phones and more.
States and municipalities, counties and the federal Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA) of 1987 established specific industry standards that nursing homes must meet in order to foster a safe living environment for residents. Nursing homes that fail to reasonably provide the care for residents and facilities that is required may be sued for abuse or neglect.
On the adult’s behalf
Some elderly victims of abuse do not speak up because they are prevented from doing so, embarrassed, physically or mentally unable or too confused to understand the gravity of what’s happening. An attorney can stand up on behalf of these victims and fight for the justice they deserve.
If you believe that a parent or an elderly loved one has been subjected to abuse or neglect by a caregiver, organization, medical professional or a friend/family member, contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss the steps you can take to secure the adult’s rights and seek justice for what has happened.
Approximately 47 million seniors live in the United States, a population that is predicted to double within the next 40 years. As this number rises, more and more adults will begin to enter elder care facilities, such as senior living communities and nursing homes.
Unfortunately, many elder abuse lawsuits have shut down nursing homes in recent years. If your parents or an elderly loved one will be moving into a living center, it’s important that you help the adult choose a safe care facility.
Do your research
- Read online reviews
- Investigate multiple options to compare with
- Check up on the home unexpectedly during busy times to get an idea of how well the staff manages multiple residents under normal circumstances
- Ask to see medical records
- Speak with the administrator about your concerns
- Talk to residents — ask them about the quality of their assisted daily living services, such as bathing, dressing, meal quality and medication management.
Look for social opportunities
Don’t settle for a facility that only has card games on Thursday nights. Looking for living centers that facilitate social groups and outings may lead to a safer environment for your parent. Whether they’re going on bird watching trips to nature conservatories, taking art classes, gambling in casinos or learning computer skills, the more relationships residents develop with one another, the stronger the likelihood becomes that instances of poor treatment or care are communicated.
Make sure you can stay in contact
Amazon’s latest television ad promotes the Echo Spot by showing how the video communication device can help families be together after an emotional departure. Ensure that the facility your parent will be living in has internet and telephone access that can be used without the assistance of a care provider.
Additionally, always make sure you can have private conversations with your parent, without a staff member hovering around.
Elder abuse includes any instances of negligence, financial exploitation, emotional abuse, physical abuse or sexual abuse.
If you know of an incident involving an attempt or act of abuse toward an elderly loved one, contact an attorney as soon as possible. There are many laws in place to protect and compensate seniors who have been subject to attempts or instances of elder abuse.
Videos in nursing homes are revealing an unfortunate reality for many elderly residents across the nation. In a recent story by CNN, a Florida nursing home surveillance camera shows a violent altercation made by one resident to another over a cupcake. A male resident age 52 is caught on camera striking an 86-year-old man suffering from dementia with over 50 punches as he lay on the ground. Allegedly, the older man ate the younger man’s cupcake and video shows over two minutes of a violent reaction ensuing.
Consequences for the retirement home
The retirement home in this story tells of one of the many allegations of abuse and violence within their facility. In fact, recent arrests were made against two former facility administrators charged with elderly neglect. There have been many incidents that occur in common areas where other residents are nearby and cameras are recording the events. In this particular event, the video shows no staff members present where the beating occurred. The older resident was eventually found on the floor with a swollen face, bruising and hip damage.
Soon after this occurrence, staff ignored the need to take an elderly woman to the hospital after she hit her head, which resulted in her death and the shut down of the retirement facility. Administration later accredited the failure of their business and its ability to provide a safe environment for residents due to inadequate training and a lack of staff.
Protecting the vulnerable
Not only are residents in a vulnerable situation being away from loved ones and having to rely on staff for intervention, but also the lack of staff and trained knowledge on protocol further aggravates this unfortunate reality. While it may be a common occurrence in many retirement homes across the country, there are legal resources and other ways to protect loved ones if you suspect elderly neglect or abuse.
Contacting a lawyer and collecting information related to the failure of a nursing home to protect its residents is often the first step taken when seeking protection for our elderly community.
What can nursing homes do to prevent stories like this from happening?