Nursing homes are facilities where many senior citizens in various medical conditions or with cognitive disabilities are treated and cared for in the remaining years of their lives. Many elders, or those 60 and over, are particularly vulnerable to physical and mental abuse from those who are entrusted with their care. Boston nursing home abuse may be more common than statistics indicate since many experts suspect that only 20% of abuse incidents are reported nationwide.
If you have a loved one who is a nursing home resident in the Boston area and suspect the staff is engaging in abusive practices, contact a nursing home abuse lawyer to discuss your legal options. Your suspicions about your loved one being possibly abused can stem from observing obvious signs to the more subtle. Here is a list of the top 8 signs of nursing home abuse that everyone who has a relative in nursing care should be cognizant of and report if found:
- Bed sores and skin infections. These signs are obvious and you should check your loved ones body if they are mostly bedridden, recovering from an illness or injury and are unable to communicate their discomfort. Bedsores develop when a person is in one position for too long and infections can result from dirty linen or from failure to treat an open sore or wound.
- Bruises on legs and wrists from restraints. Patients who are mentally incapacitated or have certain physical conditions may need bed railings to keep them from falling out of bed, but wrist or ankle restraints are rarely used or justified except in extraordinary circumstances and with the consent and monitoring of medical personnel who should advise the family. Unfortunately, restraints are used by staff as punishment or because a bed with railings is unavailable.
- Noticeable change in demeanor or mental status. This can be the result of sedating residents to keep them docile, compliant or asleep most of the time. If your loved one appears frightened or intimidated by staff, you should investigate further since this could indicate bullying by staff. This may be more difficult to notice if the resident suffers from dementia.
- Malnourishment and dehydration. If you notice your loved one is losing weight, is chronically hungry, is dizzy or has dry mouth and headaches, immediately take steps to have her examined.
- Unexplained cuts, bruises and injuries. There should be a record if the resident has cuts or bruises or has suffered an injury. Ask to see your relative’s medical records to see if there is an explanation for what occurred and if you were not advised, why not? You might note inconsistencies among the staff as to what occurred or between a staff member’s explanation and what the record indicates.
- Frequent falls. Falls are the most common causes of injuries in nursing homes. Staff should take special precautions for residents who have to use walkers or other assistance. If your loved one has constant falls, then staff is likely not providing adequate attention or protection.
- Lack of proper hygiene. You can see physical signs of poor hygiene by noticing your loved one’s teeth or if they have bathed or not. Straggly hair, offensive odors and unwashed clothing are indicators that the resident is being ignored or intentionally mistreated.
- Frequent illnesses. If your loved one becomes frequently ill, it could be a sign that he/she is deteriorating from natural causes or from a certain preexisting medical condition. But it can also be from not receiving adequate care or attention. Staff may not be properly administering medications, if at all, or ignoring the resident’s obvious signs of illness.
Understaffing is a major cause of resident abuse in nursing homes and a significant problem in many nursing home facilities. Facilities hire untrained staff, or those with criminal records, to fill positions and overwork them. Consequently, staff members become frustrated, irritated and impatient with residents who may need specific care or who are demanding. In any case, nursing home residents have a right to decent care and to be treated with respect and dignity.
You should be aware of these 8 common signs of nursing home abuse but also ask your loved ones about their care and if their needs are being met. If they have friends in the facility, ask them about the care they are receiving and if they have noticed certain deficiencies or abusive practices by staff.
If your loved one was injured at a nursing home or if any of these signs of abuse are present, consult with attorney Paul Tetzel, a nursing home abuse attorney, who will discuss your concerns with you and advise you on what steps can be taken. Paul Tetzel has long been representing the rights of seniors in nursing home abuse claims and can ensure that your concerns about your loved ones are thoroughly investigated and that they receive the care and compensation to which they are entitled.