When you have a loved one in a nursing home, you are already facing difficult emotional and financial challenges. You may be anxious about the care they will receive, and you may be admitting them to the facility because there are no other feasible options. Not everyone has the ability to provide the necessary care for loved ones as they age and face the overwhelming adversity of serious physical and mental afflictions.
Your loved one may require specialized medical care, around the clock, that you cannot provide. They may require constant supervision to protect them from unclear thinking and prevent accidents. They may simply be unable to care for themselves any longer, and thus, need the kind of care and attention that these facilities are designed and intended to provide.
The unfortunate reality that nobody ever wants to face is that the elderly are at risk of being abused or neglected in nursing homes. That isn’t to say that your loved one will become a victim, but it is essential to be aware of the risks and to make sure that they do not.
How Can You Prevent Abuse and Neglect in a South Carolina Nursing Home?
The most important thing that you can do to prevent this kind of situation is to do your research before choosing a nursing home. This means looking up the ratings of such facilities, interviewing the staff, and asking the right questions. For example, you need to ask them how much time the nursing home staff are allowed to spend caring for each patient.
Many people picture nursing homes as places where their loved one will have the undivided attention of a nurse, but this is very rarely ever the case. Rather, the nursing staff must divide their time between patients, often with strict limits concerning how much time they have to complete the various hygiene and health procedures. For instance, if you find that each patient is only supposed to receive ten minutes of the nurse’s time for bathing, brushing teeth, and combing hair, then you might want to find a place that allows for more individual attention.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the United States has a five star rating system for nursing home facilities. The ratings are based on health inspections, the number of hours that staff are able to spend with each patient, and the quality of physical and clinical care provided. You can use this information to help you make positive decisions about your loved one’s care in the best nursing home in your area.
Still, all of the research and information in the world is often not enough for someone to predict whether or not abuse or neglect will become an issue for their elderly loved ones. This is where it is important for you and other family members to visit as often as possible. If you have other friends and family who are willing to do this, then you can make it much easier on you and much more likely that someone will spot the signs of abuse or neglect, even if others do not.
For instance, if you are only able to visit your loved one once a week, but you have a friend or family member who will also visit once a week, then this is twice the attention and visits for your loved one, who will need the social support as well as the outside observation. If you have a third person who can visit once a week or every other week, then this is even better. The more support you can provide for your loved one the healthier he or she will be and the less vulnerable the person will be to abuse and neglect.
How Will You Know If Your Loved One Is Abused or Neglected?
You and anyone else who visits your loved one in the nursing home will need to know what signs of abuse and neglect to look for. Educate yourself and others in your loved one’s support system about these common indications of inadequate attention or outright harmful treatment:
- Obvious Injury: Obvious injuries can include broken bones, cuts, and bruising. You may not want to jump to conclusions, because anyone can become injured, and the elderly are particularly susceptible to falls, for example. However, the nursing staff at the facility ought to have safety protocol in place to prevent falls and injuries. If the injuries occur more than once or if they are suspicious in nature, then you need to take action.
- Bed Sores & Infections: Bed sores occur when a person is bed ridden or in a wheel chair, and is not helped to move frequently enough. They are extremely painful, and can become infected if they are not quickly treated. You may notice that your loved one is always sitting or laying down in the same position when you visit, despite varying your visiting hours. If others are also visiting, ask them to note your loved one’s position when they do. This can help you to determine whether or not he or she is being helped to change position often enough to prevent bed sores. You may also need to check your loved one’s back, legs, and bottom to seek if there are bed sores. If you find evidence of an infection, there is very good reason to believe that your loved one is not being cared for properly, as no wound should go untreated long enough to become infected.
- Malnutrition & Dehydration: Malnutrition and dehydration are indications that your loved one is being neglected, not being fed often enough, and not being provided with water. You can catch this quickly by always offering food and water to your loved one when you visit, and paying attention to how they react. If they eat or drink as if they haven’t done so in a long time, you should be suspicious. Other indications of malnutrition and dehydration include weight loss, dry skin, and increased weakness.
- Mood & Behavior Changes: When your loved one is not able to verbally express themselves, you need to be especially attentive to their moods and behaviors. You should also keep in mind that even those who can verbally express themselves may be afraid or ashamed of revealing that abuse is occurring. Sexual abuse is especially difficult for someone to open up about, but it does happen. This is where it becomes necessary to be aware of how their moods and behaviors change over time. Does your loved one act afraid? Is he or she becoming depressed or anxious? If you notice mood and behavior symptoms that are out of ordinary, there could be a problem.
What Do You Do Once You Begin to Suspect Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect?
You may have doubts about your suspicions of abuse or neglect in a nursing home, but you should never assume that your suspicions are wrong. Rather, you should investigate further, look into other facilities, and notify the police. If you suspect that your loved one is being harmed or not receiving the appropriate care, it is likely because you have seen some of the above indications that this is so. Don’t ignore them. Take action and protect your loved one from experiencing further mistreatment. Then, call the experienced nursing home neglect lawyers in Charleston, SC at the David Aylor Law Offices to find out how you can recover compensation for the harm that your loved one has endured at the hands of those who were supposed to provide them with the best of care.