Even when a nursing home facility seems to be in compliance with safety and health laws, family members and friends of residents should be alert to signs of neglect or abuse. Because of their age and their vulnerability in the home, residents may not be forthcoming about an issue, even if it is causing them significant pain or distress.
According to the U.S. National Institute on Aging, here are some signs that an older adult is suffering abuse or neglect.
If the nursing home has enough staff to operate as it should, then preventable issues such as bedsores and falls ought not to be a problem. For example, there should be enough staff available to shift or relocate an elder confined to a bed or chair at regular intervals to prevent pressure sores.
Unwashed hair, soiled clothing or bad smells may indicate that staff is neglecting the resident’s hygiene needs. If the resident normally takes care of personal hygiene, though, it could indicate that neglect or abuse is taking a mental toll and leaving him or her depressed.
Most older adults need glasses, hearing aids, walkers, dentures and other assistive devices. If a resident has broken glasses or a hearing aid is missing, it can effectively isolate him or her. Without dentures or mobility aids, a resident could go hungry or fall and break a hip. Missing medical devices may indicate at the least that staff is not paying attention. Theft may be an issue, or staff or another resident may be withholding or breaking items intentionally.
Family members can take complaints to the long-term care ombudsman. However, if there is any sign that a resident is at risk of harm or immediate danger, then it is time to contact law enforcement.