Common Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
As of 2014, the number of adults being cared for in nursing homes in the U.S. had reached 1.4 million and with the aging of the baby boomer generation, this number is likely to continue to rise sharply. In fact, in the space of just 15 years, the number of Americans aged 65 and over with disabilities who rely entirely on formal care had almost doubled from 5% in 1984 to 9% in 1999.
While in times past it was common for family members to be the sole caregivers for their aging relatives, this is often no longer possible. More and more people have entrusted the care of their aging loved ones to what they hope are comfortable nursing facilities staffed with competent caregivers. Unfortunately, the increasing demands on long-term care facilities had led to a rise in reports of nursing home abuse and New Mexico is not immune to this trend. In fact, several New Mexico nursing homes have been involved in lawsuits brought by the Attorney General based on allegations of abuse, neglect, and even wrongful death.
At Ron Bell Injury Lawyers, we care deeply about the aging members of our community and urge our readers to be aware of common signs that their loved one may not be receiving the level of care they should be. Some signs of abuse, such as bruises and broken bones, are obvious. Others, however, are not as obvious and an untrained eye might even overlook them entirely. If you notice any of these common signs of elder neglect or nursing home abuse, there may be a problem.
One of the tell-tale signs of nursing home abuse or neglect is the presence of bed sores. These wounds are caused by prolonged pressure in one area of the body and are called “bed sores” because they generally result from being confined to a bed for long periods of time. Bed sores can be prevented with proper care, so if you notice one on an elderly family member, be aware that this may be a sign of neglect.
Weight Loss & Malnutrition
While some amount of weight loss is common to the aging process, rapid or sudden weight loss could be a sign that your loved one isn’t getting adequate nutrition. This is actually a fairly common problem in nursing homes and may be due to understaffing with too few nursing assistants overseeing the nutritional needs of many residents. Another cause could be inadequate training of staff members. Signs of malnutrition include weight loss, mouth sores, yellowish or dull skin, and cognitive problems.
Dirty Rooms and Common Areas
This doesn’t refer to a cluttered, untidy, or disorganized space. Clothes piled on a chair is not necessarily an indication of nursing home neglect. Unsanitary conditions, however, are unacceptable. Nursing homes are supposed to be clean environments that prevent the spread of illness. If you notice trays of old food left in rooms, foul smells, or other unsanitary conditions, it might be time to look into things at your loved one’s nursing home.
An elderly individual should be supervised at all times when moving around in a nursing home to avoid the risk of injury. If your loved one suffered a fall while trying to go to the bathroom or get something to eat, then the nursing home’s staff may not be caring for your loved one as well as they should.
While infection isn’t always possible to prevent, a nursing home should do its best to create as sterile of an environment as possible. If you notice that your loved one has recurring infections or illnesses, there may be a problem.
Changes in Mood
If you notice your loved one becoming more reserved or not wanting company, there may be a problem. Oftentimes abuse and neglect will cause victims to become depressed, frightened, or unnaturally subdued. This is because physical abuse always contains an aspect of emotional abuse as well. If you notice an unusual change in your elderly loved one’s mood, do not ignore it. This is often the first sign that something is amiss.
Don’t Wait Until it is Too Late
If you suspect that your loved one is being abused or neglected at the hands of their nursing home, it’s important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Time limits called “statutes of limitations exist” which limit the period of time in which you can file a case. After this period has expired, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to file a claim for abuse. Besides the statute of limitations, cases of nursing home abuse can escalate, and your loved one’s well-being could be in jeopardy. An experienced nursing home abuse attorney can help you take the right steps to ensure that the abuse or neglect stops, and that your loved one can receive the compensation needed to secure appropriate care.