America has a rapidly growing senior population. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that people over 65 will outnumber the under-18 population by 2035. In 2018, American life expectancy was hovering around 78.7 years. But seniors who make it to 80 years usually live another eight to 10. That means an increasing number of adults have to make difficult decisions about care for their aging parents.
More than half of the men and women who reach the age of 65 will need long-term care during their lifetimes. One contributing cause is Alzheimer’s Disease, which is also advancing at an alarming rate. For Americans over 85, the risk is that nearly one in two people will contract the disease. And as people age, their physical health typically declines as well. Repeated falls, hospitalizations, and severe illness can highlight the need for nursing home care. Turning to assisted living is a tough choice. But for many families, it’s the only way to ensure their loved ones have the around-the-clock care they need.
If you’ve had to make this difficult decision, make sure your loved one is getting the proper care. Because unfortunately, elder abuse and neglect are real risks for many residents. Between these two forms of nursing home misconduct, neglect is the more common occurrence. A disturbing 90% of assisted living residents report neglect of themselves or others.
Defining Nursing Home Neglect
Nursing home neglect is a form of elder abuse, marked by inaction rather than action. In some cases, staff members pair this negligent inattention with direct abuse.
Forms of Nursing Home Neglect
When this type of abuse occurs, staff and medical personnel neglect their residents in four main areas:
The resident’s essential needs, like food and water, are not being met. The staff doesn’t change the bedding or clean their room. The resident may be left to lie in their own waste. Safety concerns are neglected, too. For example, the facility doesn’t replace blown lightbulbs, ignores poor lighting issues, leaves wet floors unattended, and keeps faulty equipment (wheelchairs and walkers) in use.
Nurses and other medical staff aren’t providing adequate medical care for residents with health issues. They may not be giving them their medication, neglecting wound care, and ignoring signs of impending or existing medical problems. Some facilities use medication to “restrain” residents by keeping them too sedated to be ambulatory.
Essential hygiene practices -- bathing, toothbrushing, laundry, hair care, shaving, nail care -- are lacking.
Social and Emotional
The resident is frequently left alone and ignored. The staff doesn’t respond to their requests or complaints. And they have little to no social interaction with staff or other residents. Some facilities use physical restraints to keep the resident from leaving their bed.
Common Causes of Neglect in Assisted Living Facilities
Nursing home neglect may be unintentional or purposeful. In 2010, research revealed that up to 50% of staff members in these facilities admitted to acts of neglect or abuse. The most common reasons for neglect in assisted living facilities follow:
- Lack of resources
- Inadequate support services
- Poor staff training
- Insufficient reporting procedures
- Malfeasance – Intentional wrongdoing
Recognizing the Signs of Nursing Home Neglect
Many nursing home residents are unable to adequately express themselves when they’re experiencing neglect. Some aren’t even aware that it’s happening due to their physical and/or cognitive issues. So, it’s important that you be their eyes and ears for them, and that you provide them with a voice. To that end, if you notice one or more of the following issues, it may be a sign of neglect:
- Bed sores, ulcers, pressure sores
- Frequent Infections
- Bad odor and other signs of poor hygiene
- Dirty clothing
- Signs of the use of physical restraints like bruises, marks, and skin tears
- Damaged or missing articles of clothing
- Recurring injuries due to slips or falls – like bruising, lacerations, and fractures
- Repeated accidents -- like self-inflicted burns
- Recurring illnesses
- Sudden or unexplained weight loss
- Untreated medical or dental issues
- Significant personality changes
- Emotional outbursts
- Cowering or frightened behavior
Seek Legal Help for Your Aging Loved One
If you suspect that your loved one is suffering from nursing home neglect, take action. Address the problem and stop the neglect. Call the Eldercare Locator Monday through Friday, from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm ET at 1-800-677-1116. They can direct you to state-specific resources. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) also provides helpline, hotline, and referral information by state.
Once you’ve taken the necessary steps to secure your family member’s safety, it may be time for legal intervention. The Reinartz Law Firm understands the stress and fear you’re struggling with. You trusted supposed professionals with a precious member of your family. Then you discover they abused that trust and neglected your loved one. Your family is devastated, and you may not know where to turn. Our New Jersey Personal Injury & Medical Malpractice attorneys are sensitive to your plight. We provide compassionate legal guidance and advise you of the protections available. Call us to discuss your concerns.