Knowing what to do in the event of abuse is one thing, but there are also steps and strategies that help prevent nursing home abuse altogether. When entering a nursing home setting or making the decision to move a loved one into a nursing home, it is important to take extra steps to ensure safety. Not only does preparation for nursing home life – and, unfortunately, the potential for abuse or neglect – help set a standard of care from the beginning, but it also ensures any abuse or neglect is caught early – or prevented completely. Here are a few strategies to prevent nursing home abuse and neglect.
Defining Abuse & Neglect
Identifying abuse and neglect is key to discerning when these human rights violations are occurring. It is also helpful when you are touring facilities because you can more easily spot signs. A quick recap of abuse and neglect definitions and signs is always a great first step to preventing them.
Abuse is defined as the physical, emotional, financial, or sexual mistreatment of adults in nursing home facilities. Nursing Home Abuse Justice states that “Nursing home abuse occurs when caretakers harm residents of long-term care facilities.” In short, abuse is any intentional mistreatment of an adult under the care of the nursing home and its staff.
Neglect, while a form of abuse, is the refusal, intentional or unintentional oversight, or complete disregard for the regular care of residents. Often this takes the form of staff ignoring calls, neglecting to attend to regular hygiene practices, refusing the resident access to food and water, purposeful and unnecessary isolation of the resident, and denying access to events and activities.
Both abuse and neglect can lead to worsening health, new health problems, and even death. The following signs should be continually looked for in order to stop abuse and neglect in their tracks and address the problem before it worsens.
Signs of abuse and neglect:
- Bedsores, especially stage 4 bedsores
- Broken bones and fractures
- Bruises, burns, and welts on the skin
- Cuts, lacerations, and skin tears
- Dehydration and malnutrition
- Facial and dental injuries
- Falls that cause fractures or head injury
- Infections that turn into sepsis
- Unexplainable sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- Unexplained weight loss
Strategies to Prevent Abuse & Neglect
- Know Your Rights. It is hard to speak up for yourself, and even harder if you are unfamiliar with your rights. We always advocate for individuals – whether the resident or a loved one – to know their resident rights.
- Form A Family Council. We’ve talked about family councils before and the role they play in elder care. Within a nursing home setting, family councils act as liaisons between residents (often their loved ones) and the facility staff and administration. They can speak up for the voiceless and act as a strong advocating force to make real change on a larger scale.
- Visit Often & Speak Up. If you have family or friends in a nursing home, a key to preventing abuse and neglect is to visit often. In addition, it is vitally important to speak up about any issue you see, no matter how small. Always be kind, especially since most nursing homes are understaffed, but be observant, involved, present, and vocal.
- Be Involved in the Care Plan. For both residents and loved ones, it is key to be involved and vocal in the care plan. Do not be afraid to advocate for what you want and maintain as much of your regular care and activity schedule as possible. Leaving this up to the discretion of the facility could result in unintentional neglect. Even though they are working with a wide range of individuals, your preferences and habits are still very important!
These strategies may not seem like much, but they can make a huge difference! For the most part, it boils down to staying involved. We hope this helps residents and their loved ones feel more confident in their ability to prevent abuse.
If you or a loved one have been the victim of abuse or neglect, call Gharibian Law (877-460-1187) today for a FREE consultation and the best legal representation.