Ask Marvin Lundy…About Preventing Nursing Home Abuse

There are 1.5 million people in the United States who live in nursing homes today. They are among the most vulnerable of us, depending on others for the very basics of life: food, hygiene, safety and medical care.

Unfortunately, not all nursing homes meet an acceptable standard of care. You can prevent nursing home injuries before they occur. This article will provide you with information that you need to evaluate nursing home facilities and to understand your rights.

Nursing Home Responsibilities:

Nursing homes are responsible for ensuring the safety and care of its residents. They must ensure that its residents have secure and clean living conditions, proper nourishment, hygiene and medical care. The following are some instances where a nursing home may be negligent:

  • Not providing food or water or failure to prevent malnutrition or dehydration
  • Not assisting in personal hygiene
  • Not providing safe, clean living conditions
  • Not providing adequate treatment and services for incontinent residents
  • Not providing appropriate supervision and assistive devices to prevent accidents
  • Not providing adequate medical care and acquire and dispense proper medications, as well as failing to ensure that residents are free from serious medication errors
  • Not preventing a resident from developing pressure sores; or, if a resident already has pressure sores, failure to provide proper treatment to promote healing

Most residents of nursing homes need assistance with the basics of daily living. Many of these people also have medical needs as well. To maintain this care requires proper staffing, training and supervision.

The majority of nursing homes are for profit institutions, many of which are owned by large corporations.  One of the easiest ways to increase profits is to reduce staffing costs. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, many nursing homes operating in the United States are understaffed to the point where they endanger the welfare of their patients.

So, what can you do if someone you love requires nursing home care? The best thing is to be an informed customer by doing your research. Following are some resources that you can use to help you in selecting a nursing home:

  • Center for Medicaid Services
    The Center for Medicaid Services (CMS) publishes a useful guide to choosing a nursing home. It provides useful information on how to find and compare nursing homes, paying for care, resident rights and where to call for help. CMS also provides a five-star rating system to help you compare the quality of a particular institution.
  • AARP
    AARP provides a State-by-State Guide to nursing home performance that can provide you up-to-date statistics on local facilities. In addition, AARP provides a variety of insider tips to help you make choices, and a checklist that can help you ask the right questions when evaluating a nursing home.
  • Subscription Services
    There are online fee-based subscription services such as Angie’s List, which provide customer-based of reviews of facilities. While these are not officially rated, they can provide useful insight into other’s experiences.

Making a Site Visit:

To really get to know a nursing home, you need to see it for yourself. AARP recommends making an unscheduled site visit to really get a sense of things. If it’s during regular business hours, stop in and ask for the administrator, who should be on site. If not, ask for the next person in charge to show you around. Be sure to ask about the ratio of caregivers to residents or seek a copy of the staffing schedule.

Sights and sounds will be your guide. Look at how the facility is maintained. Is it clean? How does it smell? The smell of urine or feces is a big red flag that says go elsewhere. Also, visit the bathroom. What you really want to check out is the hot water. A common complaint is the lack of hot water, especially in larger homes.

Beyond this, observe how the staff interacts with residents. Do the residents seem happy? Do they seem engaged, or are they just sitting around in wheel chairs? Is anyone calling out repeatedly without being answered or attended to?

What is the quality of the food? Do the residents like their food, or just leave on trays? Hang around during meal time. Many nursing home residents require assistance with eating their meals. Is there enough time feed all the residents, or is staff rushed?

Conducting a thorough visit and knowing what to look for can help you to make an informed choice.

Detecting Abuse:

Even with the most carefully planning, abuse can occur. Your loved ones won’t always tell you about abuse. In some cases, they may unable to due to physical or mental limitations. In other cases, they won’t discuss the abuse because they are afraid it will become worse, or they don’t want worry you. You need to know the signs of abuse. These may include:

  • Unexplained bruises, cuts, burns, sprains, or fractures in various stages of healing
  • Bedsores or frozen joints
  • Unexplained venereal disease or genital infections; vaginal or anal bleeding; torn, stained, or bloody underclothing
  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Staff refusing to allow visitors to see resident or delays in allowing visitors to see resident
  • Staff not allowing resident to be alone with visitor
  • Resident being kept in an over-medicated state
  • Loss of resident’s possessions
  • Sudden large withdrawals from bank accounts or changes in banking practices
  • Abrupt changes in will or other financial documents

What You Can Do:

These are some steps that you can take if you suspect abuse or neglect:

  1. Visit as often as possible to show your presence. Nursing home management and staff are likely to pay more attention if they know that you are involved with your loved one’s care. As well, you will be in a better position to catch any problems early, before they get out of hand.
  2. Talk to your physician or medical professional, or a health-care administrator or employee at the facility. They may be legally obligated to report the abuse to the appropriate agencies. In some states, a member of the clergy is also mandated to report suspected abuse, so they may also be a source of assistance.
  3. Seek an alternative facility.
  4. Take action yourself by calling Adult Protective Services (APS) in PennsylvaniaNew Jersey or Delaware

Finally, if you believe that a loved one has been the victim of neglect or abuse in a nursing home or assisted living facility, get legal counsel. You may be able to collect damages. To learn more about your legal rights, call the nursing home experts at Lundy Law.

We’ll fight for you and your loved ones.