When it comes to choosing a nursing home or assisted living community for yourself or an elderly loved one, there are plenty of options to choose from. However, the unfortunate truth is that not all these facilities are taking care of their residents properly. According to the Nursing Home Abuse Center, about 1-2 million U.S. citizens age 65 or older have been mistreated, exploited, or injured by a caregiver. In order to ensure you or your loved one receives the best care, it's important to pay attention to your surroundings when visiting nursing home facilities in order to pick up on key indicators of abuse and mistreatment. Learning to spot signs of abuse can help prevent serious injury and trauma for your loved ones and many others. Here are some key signs you should watch for.
Poor Personal Hygiene
Many elderly adults need the assistance of nursing home staff to help with daily personal hygiene tasks such as showering, brushing their teeth, changing clothes, and clipping their nails. Unfortunately, some of those routine tasks suffer when facilities are understaffed or staff isn't properly trained. If you see residents with a disheveled appearance, unkempt clothes and hair, or un-brushed teeth, it may be a sign that residents are being neglected. Poor hygiene and lack of cleanliness can lead to serious issues such as sores, rashes, infections, and diseases.
Unclean Living Conditions
While the residents should be cleaned and well-kempt, the nursing home facility itself should be too. Nursing homes and other care facilities must meet state requirements for cleanliness, safety, and security. Unclean toilets, sinks, and floors or dirty or torn bed linens may be a sign that the staff and administrators are neglecting the facility and, in turn, it's residents.
Along with lack of personal hygiene and cleanliness and increased incontinence among older adults comes foul odors. Any body odor on residents or foul smell in the facility could be an indicator that staff are not changing clothes, diapers, bed pans, and bed linens frequently enough or helping the residents properly clean themselves. In addition, wounds that are not cleaned and treated properly can also start to have an offensive odor. Again, lack of cleanliness and personal hygiene routines can lead to serious health concerns.
While aches, pains, and ailments may cause residents to occasionally cry out or make groaning noises, those sounds should not be frequent when visiting the facility. Unusual amounts of screaming, groaning, or crying may be a sign that a resident's physical and mental needs are not being taken care of. In addition, you should never hear staff members raise their voices or use foul language toward a patient, either directly or in private with other staff members.
Unusual Behavior from Staff
As with most businesses, administrators and caregivers at nursing homes should be prompt, professional, and transparent in all interactions. If something seems "fishy" when you contact a nursing home or assisted living facility – such as a delayed response to messages, an unwillingness to provide specific details or information, hesitating to schedule a prompt on-site visit, or not showing certain areas of the facility – it may be a sign that there's something going on. While there are laws and rules regarding patient privacy, staff should be open and honest about important facility operations.
These are just a few key things to watch for when you start the processes of picking a nursing home for yourself or a loved one. Of course, there are many other signs of abuse and malpractice that may not be immediately noticeable, such as unexplained injuries, changes in a patient's mood or behavior, sudden weight loss or hair loss due to dehydration and malnutrition, health complications from improperly administering prescriptions, sexual abuse, and more. That's why it's important to know your rights and do plenty of research before making a final decision on nursing home care.