If our elderly loved ones can't be in their own home, or ours, we want to know that they are safe and well taken care of. But that isn't always so simple if we live far away or can't visit as often as we like. And, for many reasons, nursing home residents can be reluctant to report negligence or abuse. So, what are some common nursing home injuries or signs of neglect, how can you identify mistreatment, and what can you do if a loved one has been injured in a nursing home or hospice care facility?
Here's what you need to know:
Physical signs of injury are only one indicator of elder neglect or abuse, and they may not be immediately obvious to friends or family members. You may also want to watch out for weight loss or dehydration, unclean clothing or living areas, anxiety or fearfulness of caregivers, depression, withdrawal, or unwillingness to talk, among other unusual behavior.
It's one of the most common causes of injury for elderly people, even outside of nursing homes. So you would think elder care facilities would be especially careful. Does that make them more liable for slip-and-fall accidents on their premises? Possibly -- many states place a heightened duty of care on nursing homes when it comes to protecting their residents from injury and ensuring their premises are safe.
Bedsores are also a common nursing home injury, and can be a clear sign of neglect. While minor (or Stage I) bedsores may only be a mild irritant that can heal without much difficulty, a more severe pressure sore is likely to be considered malpractice or negligent care, especially if a patient is immobile.
A recent study found more than 100,000 facial injuries in nursing home settings in just 5 years, citing structural elements and transfers to and from bed facilitating the greatest number of falls. Older women were especially vulnerable, and sustaining a greater proportion of injuries as they got older. Lacerations and other soft-tissue injuries were the most common injuries listed, and fractures occurred in over 12 percent of the examined cases.
If you've identified that a loved one is being abused or neglected in a nursing home, what can you do about it? While you may be able to file a civil suit for negligence or medical malpractice, some states also have criminal statutes that may apply as well.
Contact a local nursing home abuse attorney to discuss your legal options.