Nursing Home Neglect - What to Do If You Suspect Neglect or Abuse

Most long-term health care is delivered at home or in assisted living; however, some require nursing home care. Abuse and neglect can happen anywhere, and you should know what to do if you suspect neglect.

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Nursing Home Neglect - What to Do If You Suspect Neglect or Abuse
5 Min Read December 1st, 2021

Sending your mom or dad or other loved ones to a nursing home can be a difficult decision. If they require more care than what can easily be delivered at home or in assisted living, it probably would be best for everyone.

Staff in nursing homes are trained to provide quality care services, especially for those who need substantial physical services or supervision for advanced dementia.

Sadly, older adults are vulnerable and often taken advantage of or neglected. This makes it easy for seniors to suffer abuse or neglect at the hands of the staff at their nursing homes. Just because you sent your loved ones there doesn’t mean you can stop worrying about them, and in most cases, it would be wise to regularly visit and keep an eye on your parents or grandparents. 

While private pay facilities are often better quality than Medicaid primary facilities, abuse and neglect can happen anywhere. Unless you are paying attention, you may never know.

On the off chance that you suspect abuse or neglect, you can take various courses of action to remedy the situation. 

Talk to a Lawyer 

One of the first things you should do in case you suspect abuse is to talk to a personal injury lawyer about you and your loved one's rights and the appropriate course of action here. In most cases, it will be best to talk to the nursing home management, but a lawyer will best advise you on how to proceed with this conversation and make sure you don't give the management any ammunition they can use against you. 

A group of people sitting at a table looking at a computer

If the issue ends up reported or in court, things can get tricky and messy, and every single conversation will be held under a microscope. A lawyer will help determine if it appears that a reasonable standard of care was not provided or if there is evidence of employee negligence. Abuse is unlawful, and law enforcement may need to be involved right away.

Delaying action is not recommended since ongoing neglect or abuse is harmful to your loved one.

Talk to Your Loved Ones 

Before you contact law enforcement or the nursing home management, you need to talk to the care recipient and get their side of the story. Keep in mind that they may not want to talk to you about it, either because of fear or because they don’t want to worry you. They might also be reluctant to take things to law enforcement because of a lack of faith in the legal system. 

Plus, those with cognitive impairment or substantial health issues may not be able to provide information.

It’s your job to make sure they’re honest with you and do whatever is necessary to make them safe again. If you suspect someone close to you is being subjected to abuse and neglect, the problem will involve more people than just you and your family members. 

Keep Records of Everything 

It’s in your best interests to write down everything you feel is going wrong in a journal or the form of a list. Record the details of all events, conversations, including dates and times. Take photos and videos, if necessary, to provide visual evidence. 

This detailed information will help your lawyer make your case, if it comes to that, and help you make sure the nursing home can’t twist events to suit their own story. 

Who Else Should You Contact? 

You need to contact the proper authorities if you feel like the nursing home’s response to your concerns was less than satisfactory. You could contact the Long Term Care Ombudsman or Adult Protective Services Agency in your state - the nursing home in question is required by law to have their contact information easily accessible or noted in a visible place. 

These people are charged with making sure action is taken on your complaint, and your loved ones get the justice and care they deserve. 

Should You Call 911? 

You should only call 911 if you feel your loved one is in imminent danger, or they have visible signs of injury. If your loved one needs to go to the hospital - take them right away.

Common Signs of Abuse and Neglect to Watch For

There are common nursing home injuries that you should watch for, including:

  • Bedsores
  • Bedrail injuries
  • Bruises, burns, and welts on the skin
  • Cuts, lacerations, and skin tears
  • Dehydration and malnutrition
  • Falls and broken bones
  • Fatigue, insomnia, or other sleep disorders
  • Infections
  • Lack of personal hygiene

Not all injuries are signs of abuse or neglect, but all are unacceptable. However, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and even sexual abuse can occur. 

If there are signs of sexual abuse, this would be a reason to contact law enforcement. These are some of the signs to be watchful for:

  • Bruising near the genitals or around the breasts
  • Stained, bloody, or torn underwear
  • Vaginal or anal bleeding unrelated to a medical condition
  • Unexplained STDs or other genital infections

Stay Calm 

Suspecting your loved ones are being abused or neglected is not easy to go through, but you need to keep your feelings aside and remember that you need to make sure they stay safe. This can only be done if you think rationally and keep your wits. 

The nursing home may be able to provide an adequate response to your concern, and that would be that - you don’t want to go to law enforcement or file lawsuits until you’re sure something is wrong. 

Be sure you have a medical power of attorney to get and review medical records. If you have a POA and they fail to provide you with information, contact your attorney.

Most long-term care facilities are run well and staffed by caring individuals. However, those living in nursing homes are the most vulnerable since they are usually the most dependent on others.

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About the Author

Ashley Lipman is an award-winning writer who discovered her passion for providing knowledge to readers worldwide on topics closest to her heart - all things digital. Since her first high school award in Creative Writing, she continues to deliver awesome content through various niches touching the digital sphere.

LTC News Contributor Ashley Lipman

Ashley Lipman

Contributor since February 12th, 2021

Editor's Note

When you need long-term health care, you want quality care, ideally at home. Being dependent on others, including family members, is never desired.

Health insurance, including Medicare and supplements, pay little to nothing for most long-term health care. Medicaid will pay for long-term care services must you must have little or no income or assets - plus, you must use Medicaid providers who often lack quality because they are understaffed and underpaid.  

Affordable Long-Term Care Insurance gives you access to your choice of quality care services in the setting you desire. Your loved ones will have the time to be family instead of having to provide your care. Plus, when you own an LTC Insurance policy, you own a solution. You will safeguard income and assets as you reduce the stress and anxiety otherwise placed on those you love.

Abuse and neglect can happen anywhere, even with quality care providers, but overall, quality care means safe care. Consider adding Long-Term Care Insurance to your retirement plan. The ideal time to obtain coverage is when you are in your 40s or 50s. 

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