Elder abuse is a widespread and alarming offense that occurs every day. There is an average of 3,000 cases of suspected elder abuse in Wisconsin each year. Sometimes, it isn’t because of something a caregiver does. It’s because of the things they don’t do. Nursing home neglect is abuse.
Sadly, the places our seniors should be safest is where they are being hurt the most. And it’s often the most vulnerable who endure the most. Worse yet, those with cognitive difficulties in nursing homes are often unable to say anything. And they may worry if they speak up they will be treated even worse.
Keep reading to learn more about some of the signs of nursing home neglect.
What is Nursing Home Neglect?
Neglect, as defined by the County of Milwaukee, “occurs when a caregiver’s failure to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing, medical or dental care results in significant danger to the physical or mental health of an older person in his/her care.”
Neglect makes up approximately half of all elder abuse claims, and it is a serious concern.
Unsuitable, Soiled, or Dirty Clothing
It is important to remember:
- Your loved one deserves to have clean clothing. There are times we all spill something on our clothes and have to wait to change them, but if your loved one’s clothes are always dirty, there’s a problem.
- Soiled clothing is a serious issue when associated with bodily fluids. Your loved one deserves to be cared for properly, and short staffing is not an excuse. Your loved one should be bathed, clean, and cared for.
- Clothing that is ripped or goes missing after you bring it in needs to be addressed. True, it’s difficult for dementia and cognitive units to keep other residents from wandering, but your loved one deserves their clothing and possessions to be safe.
What can you do? It’s good to drop by and visit the nursing home at different times of the day. Staff will not simply prepare for your visit. You will see how your loved one is cared for when staff are not expecting you. Stop by on your lunch hour or after your child’s school play.
Loss of Weight or Change in Appetite
A significant loss of weight can be a sign of neglect. Some reasons include:
- When staff members don’t assist residents with eating.
- Meals being unsuitable for them.
- Changes in medication, depression, or an untreated medical reason.
What can you do? Ask your loved one about meal times and what assistance they get. Also, discuss with staff the menu and make sure there is food available that your loved one likes.
In cases of dementia and other cognitive conditions, it may be the approach or preparation of the food that is an issue. For example, your loved one only eats Raisin Bran but is always given Cheerios.
Ask staff about meals and what they have observed as a possible cause for the change in your loved one. And, remember to take notes and to document any changes you notice.
Bedsores, Bruises, or Unsanitary Conditions
Your loved one deserves proper care. In fact, it is against the law to not provide it. Remember:
- Unexplained bruises, sores, and scraps should be documented. They could be a sign of neglect or abuse. This could be from staff or another patient. Either way, it needs to be addressed to keep your loved one safe.
- Bedsores do not need to happen. They are caused by neglect. Bruises can be a sign of rough care or of lack of safety.
- The environment in which your loved one lives should be clean, sanitary, and safe. Furniture surfaces, floors, and linen should be clean. Also, curtains, bedspreads, sheets, and towels should all be changed regularly.
Protect Your Loved One
As much as we’d all like to, not all of us can care for our parents or loved ones. So, we must entrust others to do so. If those individuals or companies neglect their duties, however, then we need to stand up for those we love.