Placing a family member in a nursing home or other type of care facility is typically a difficult decision. Before you moved your loved one to their nursing home, you probably did some research to determine the best one for them and felt reasonably confident with your decision. Then something doesn’t sit right with you.
Maybe you notice some signs of nursing home abuse, are afraid they will be exposed to COVID-19, notice unsafe things about the facility, or you are unhappy with staff behavior. Whatever the reason, you are now wondering if you should immediately move your loved one from their care facility. This is also a difficult decision for many reasons. However, there are some telltale signs and facts to consider when making this decision.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
The most common reason for removing a loved one from a care facility without much notice is suspected or confirmed abuse and neglect. It’s critical to be on the lookout for these signs at all times. Sometimes your family member will tell you what is going on, and other times they might be too embarrassed or ashamed. You must be their advocate. Look for the signs each time you visit. There are different types of abuse and neglect and some different signs and symptoms of each.
Common Signs of Physical, Emotional or Verbal Abuse and Neglect
- Bed injuries/asphyxiation
- Emotionally upset or agitated, extremely withdrawn and non-communicative
- Falls, fractures, or head injuries
- Medication errors
- Instances of wandering/elopement
- Pressure ulcers (bed sores)
- Rapid weight loss or weight gain
- Broken possessions such as eyeglasses, jewelry, hearing aids, or dentures
- Reluctance to speak in staff members’ presence
- Loss of self-confidence
- Acting fearful of being left alone
- Refusing medications
- Unsanitary conditions
- Loss or lack of mobility
- The unexplained or unexpected death of another resident
- Unexplained injuries such as wounds, cuts, bruises, or welts in various stages of healing
- Unsanitary and unclean conditions
- Being startled or scared easily
- Unusual or sudden changes in behavior (afraid of being touched, sucking, biting, rocking, or other repetitive behaviors)
- Wanting to be isolated from others
- The nursing home staff that will not leave you alone with your loved one
- Unnecessary delays or excuses from staff that keep you from your loved one when you come to visit
Additional Warning Signs of Physical or Verbal Abuse and Neglect
- Injuries requiring emergency treatment or hospitalization
- Any incident involving broken bones, especially a fractured hip
- Any injury occurring during or shortly after an episode of wandering (including outside the facility)
- Heavy medication or sedation
- One resident injures another resident
- Frequent illnesses that staff do not promptly report to the physician and family
- The room is rarely cleaned
- A general lack of compassion and attention from staff members towards residents
Signs of Financial Abuse
- Unexplained expenditures
- Doesn’t remember certain expenditures
- Signing up for subscriptions or programs that require monthly payments
- Charitable giving to causes that are unknown or unregistered
- Opening new financial accounts or credit cards
- Cash, checkbook, credit card, or valuables suddenly missing with no explanation
- Changes to their power of attorney
- Changes to their will
- Suddenly displays behaviors of hoarding papers and becoming secretive
Signs of Sexual Abuse
- Bruises on or around breasts and genitals
- Torn or stained underwear
- Vaginal or anal bleeding
- Contracting venereal diseases and infections
- Social withdrawal, angry outbursts, and self-isolation
Some people with family members in a nursing home may also get a sense that something is off in the facility or with their loved one. If your gut is telling you something is wrong, further investigation is warranted. If you suspect a nursing home is not providing the level of care needed, contact your local ombudsman program.
Depending on the severity of the signs and symptoms you notice, you could be doing the right thing by getting your loved one out of the care facility immediately. In the event of suspected nursing home abuse or negligence, a loved one may remove the resident from the facility. You can do this along with contacting the local authorities for an investigation of the nursing home.
Keep in mind that if one resident experiences any type of elder abuse from the nursing home staff, the chances are high that other residents are enduring similar nursing home abuse problems. You also have the option to contact an attorney who is familiar with nursing facility abuse and neglect as they can help you determine if your loved one needs to move immediately and what steps you should take.
Unsanitary or Unsafe Conditions
Keeping nursing home residents safe and healthy, especially since they live near one another and can have weakened immune systems and decreased mobility, is critical. Nursing homes and their staff are accountable for keeping the facilities clean, up to code, and in good repair as well as practicing acceptable hygiene methods.
Nursing care facilities are notorious for unsanitary and unsafe conditions. Sometimes these are minor problems that the nursing home can work to address. For instance, maybe housekeeping isn’t thoroughly cleaning certain areas, or staff leaves tripping hazards in residents’ rooms. Significant infractions could pose an imminent danger to the residents and staff.
Not all nursing homes receive routine and proper cleaning, leading to an increased risk of spreading illness throughout the facility. The lack of adequate sanitization in nursing homes and assisted living facilities is a severe type of nursing home negligence that can threaten the well-being, health, and even the lives of residents.
Examples of unsanitary practices in a nursing home include:
- Failure to change residents’ bedpans or sheets when needed
- Failure to provide proper hygiene care for residents
- Failure to wash hands thoroughly before handling food or medicine
- Failure to clean wounds or injuries
- Failure to quarantine residents with serious contagious illnesses
- Leaving trash or old food exposed for a long time
The National Center for Biotechnology Information reports that there are numerous areas in which nursing home patients are at particular risk of contracting an infectious disease if the nursing facility doesn’t maintain sanitary conditions.
These include the following:
- Unclean restrooms
- Failure to suitably launder linens and other items using appropriate temperatures, water level, and amount of bleach
- Dirty kitchen surfaces, rags, sponges, mops
- Raw or undercooked food items
- Mishandling of medical waste
The failure of a nursing home to maintain sanitary conditions in these areas can place the residents and others at increased risk of infection.
Most families don’t ever see the kitchen of a nursing home. Food safety violations run rampant in care facilities, so much so that unsanitary conditions there seem familiar or not concerning.
It’s common to find conditions like:
- Flies buzzing cooked and uncooked food
- Cockroaches scurrying for cover behind or under kitchen appliances
- Moldy ice machines
- Mystery debris in the crevices of a meat slicer
- Mouse droppings trailing throughout the kitchen
These conditions compromise the health and safety of residents, visitors, and staff in nursing home settings. While foodborne illness is a danger to any age group, individuals over 65 are especially susceptible due to weakened immune systems, immobility, chronic diseases, and age-related changes in their digestive systems.
While restaurant-goers have the option and ability to walk away from restaurants with such deplorable conditions, nursing home residents are generally stuck. However, depending on how bad the conditions are and the state of your loved one’s health, this could be a reason to remove your loved one from a nursing home immediately.
Nursing home fires account for nearly half of all medical facility fires in the United States. Sadly, many care facilities do not do everything they can or even everything they are required to do to prevent fires and act appropriately when the risk exists. These fires cause injuries and deaths to innocent residents.
There is substantial danger from a fire because of the flames; however, it is the smoke that can travel quickly to areas far away from the fire. People living in nursing homes can’t always evacuate due to mobility issues or other disabilities. Proper planning and training all staff members is imperative to provide for the safety of residents in care facilities. Nursing homes should have fire drills to practice their written evacuation plans and other procedures.
Check the following in your loved one’s nursing home:
- Is the building well maintained? Paper and other storage items should not block hallways or doors that could be needed to escape.
- Are fire safety systems in place, such as smoke detectors, alternative exits, and sprinklers?
- How many staff members per resident are on duty during the day and as well as at night or on weekends and holidays? Is managerial staff available to lead or assist with executing the escape plan if there is a fire?
- Are there rules for residents who smoke, such as a separate room, outside, or with staff supervision?
- Does nursing home management take your safety questions and concerns seriously? Are they open with information?
These may or may not be reasons to remove your loved one from the nursing care facility immediately. It will depend on the circumstances, how grave or imminent the danger could be, and your comfort level. If you have safety or sanitary questions or concerns, be sure to bring it to the supervisor’s attention, whether you remove your loved one from the facility or not. Doing so will help keep everyone safe.
Consider Your Abilities and Resources
There are factors to consider outside the walls of the nursing home if you are thinking about removing your loved one. You should weigh these factors with the concerns you have about the nursing home to determine the best course of action. Depending on the situation, you may want to consult with your loved one’s physician, a case manager, law enforcement, or even an attorney about what to do.
You need to think about where your loved one will go when they leave the nursing home. Will you transfer them to another facility? Will they live with you or another family member? If they will be living with someone, will they be safe? Are there adjustments and modifications needed in the home, such as a raised toilet seat, handrails, a walk-in shower, a shower seat, or a bedroom on the main floor? Will you want to get your loved one a medical alert system for emergencies?
Another critical factor to think about is if you will need to arrange support services in the home for your loved one, such as home nursing, meals on wheels, private caregivers, or adult daycare. Moving your loved one out of a nursing home can also be costly. You will need to ensure that you have the financial support and resources to get your loved one the care they need if they leave the nursing home. You might want to contact your local Area Agency on Aging to see what resources are available in your community.
If you decide to remove your loved one from the nursing home, notify the nursing home director, your loved one’s doctor, and other health professionals of the plan. You can also use the nursing home social worker for advice and help with discharge planning.
Most individuals don’t stop to think about the possibility of having to remove their loved one from a nursing home. However, they want the necessary care for their family members for as long as possible. Unfortunately, there are risks involved when you place a loved one in a nursing home, such as abuse or neglect.
Abuse and negligence in care facilities occur far too often throughout the entire United States. If you or a loved one is a victim of abuse or negligence in a nursing home, a seasoned nursing home abuse and negligence attorney can help protect your rights. You or your loved one could receive financial compensation for the damages either of you suffers. Contact Brauns Law, PC today for a free consultation.