It is estimated that there are currently 1.4 million Americans in nursing homes. Sadly, nursing home neglect is quite common. It is reported that in any given year, 25% of existing nursing homes are cited for death or injury of their elderly patients, and 5,000 of these patients die annually from their injuries.
Nursing home neglect refers to the breach of a duty to provide substantial care which results in harm to the patient. The harm caused to the patient must be a reasonable and foreseeable outcome of the nursing home’s negligent actions.
Neglect can manifest in many ways, but some include:
Emotional and Social Neglect: Patients may be ignored by staff, left alone for extended periods of time, or snapped at by staff.
Unattended basic needs: Patients may receive inadequate food, water, have an unsafe or unclean living environment.
Personal hygiene: Patients don’t receive help with their laundry, cleaning, eating, bathing, etc.
Medical neglect: Medical staff may not provide adequate medical intervention, improper administration of medicines, unattended bed sores, infections, cognitive diseases or mobility issues.
How Can I Detect It?
Unfortunately, many cases of neglect go unreported. Depending on the type of neglect it may be difficult to spot. It is easier to recognize when family and friends visit frequently and know the daily routines of their loved ones. Warning signs can include:
- Sudden weight loss;
- Unexplained falls;
- Quiet or withdrawn behavior;
- Changes in their hygiene or appearance;
- Lack of friendly interaction with staff;
- Malnutrition; and
- Visible environmental hazards.
If you suspect that your loved one is being neglected, it is important to act. They may not be able to communicate or understand what is happening to them. It’s a good idea to document your concerns, making notes, and even taking photographs. Express your concerns to management right away and file a report.
If the neglect is not remedied immediately, speak to a qualified lawyer for guidance. In the past, it was difficult to pursue a claim against a nursing home because they often had arbitration clauses in their contracts that prevented taking them to court. The laws on this have changed, and in many instances, a claim can be pursued against the nursing home for neglect.