According to a 2014 Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) report, 33% of seniors in skilled nursing facilities experienced a form of abuse, neglect, or preventable injury. Countless events of abuse or neglect go unreported because the elderly victims are unable or unwilling to report them. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, you need to keep an eye out for the signs of abuse and neglect (some are more obvious than others). If you suspect nursing home abuse or neglect, trust your instincts and get answers.
Here are 10 potential signs of nursing home abuse or neglect:
Bedsores. Bedsores are nasty skin irritations caused when a person stays in one position for too long. Many elderly people count on the staff to make sure they are adjusting their position on a regular basis to avoid bedsores. There is NEVER an excuse for bedsores. Bedsores vary in severity (stages 1 through 4), depending on how long the victim goes without moving, and the symptoms begin with red, warm skin and get progressively worse, becoming severe, infected open wounds that can reach down to the bone.
Frequent urinary tract infections. This can be a sign of dehydration or poor cleanliness with regard to catheterization.
Serious rashes in the diaper area. This is likely the result of sitting in urine and feces for extended periods of time.
Unexplained injuries (broken bones, dislocations, bandages, bruises, or scratches). There could be very good explanations for these types of injuries, as older people are more prone to falls, bruising, and injuries. However, every such injury should be investigated and explained to ensure they are not the result of negligence, rough handling, or violence. Some residents are left alone without the help they need, which is a form of negligence that can lead to injury.
Signs of unnecessary sedation. Behavior that is confused or overly drowsy (or sleeping significantly more than normal) could be a sign that your loved one is being given unnecessary sedatives. It can also be related to dosage issues or unmonitored side effects for other medications.
Recent loss of mobility (the ability to get around on their own like he or she did before). This could be a sign that they are not getting sufficient exercise and they are losing muscle.
Poor hygiene, including body odor (including the smell of urine or feces), dirty/torn clothes or lack of clothing, unwashed/unkempt hair, long nails, and more. This is a sign they are not getting regular care and due respect for their dignity.
Sudden weight loss. This could be a sign of malnutrition. Many elderly people need help with eating, and if they do not get the assistance they need, they can go hungry. It can also be a sign of depression, which could be a symptom of some other form of mistreatment.
Signs of dehydration (such as cracked lips or infrequent and/or discolored urination). This could mean the facility is not providing the necessary fluids or not giving your loved one necessary assistance with drinking.
Change in personality. If your loved one has had an abrupt and negative change in their demeanor, such as anxiety, easy agitation, being withdrawn, or showing a lack of interest in favorite activities, this could be the result of poor treatment, bullying, or worse. Many people are silent about their mistreatment due to fear of retaliation, and the sadness or humiliation of their experiences come through in these personality changes.
To learn more about your legal rights and options, contact Brown & Barron’s Baltimore attorneys online or at (410) 698-1717 for a free consultation.
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