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Virginia Injury & Will Contest Attorneys

This Is What You Need to Know About Nursing Home Neglect

Senior woman holds her head in her hands in an upset condition

While the majority of nursing homes in the United States provide competent care, supportive staff, and adequate facilities for elders, there are some facilities that fall short of what’s considered the standard of care. Unfortunately, the well-being and lives of many elders suffer as a result.

Neglect is perhaps one of the most prevalent forms of abuse found in U.S. nursing homes. When elders are neglected in nursing homes, serious consequences can result.

Here’s what you should know about nursing home neglect:

Neglect is Abuse

Nursing home residents are neglected when they are provided substandard care as this is a breach of duty that harms elders. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) categorizes nursing home neglect as abuse.

When a nursing home resident is abused, it means they are mistreated by those in a position of trust. Several forms of elder abuse involve direct harm to the senior, but neglect is harmful because it involves inadequate care or a disregard of the duty to perform caregiving responsibilities.

Nursing home neglect can look like any of the following:

  • Abandonment:
    • An elder is abandoned when their caregiver deserts them. This can happen in a public place, a nursing facility, or a hospital.
  • Nursing Home Neglect:
    • This occurs when nursing home staff and other responsible people fail to provide the proper care to nursing home residents.
  • Self-Neglect:
    • Seniors begin to neglect themselves when they are no longer able to effectively care for themselves and when they do not receive assistance or they refuse help.

Even though neglect may not seem as harmful as other forms of abuse, elder neglect can be just as devastating to the physical and psychological well-being of seniors.

Forms of Nursing Home Neglect

Nursing home neglect can take shape in different ways, although it typically falls into one of the following four common categories:

  • Medical Neglect:
    • This occurs when a nursing home fails to adequately attend to or address a resident’s medical needs. The result may be any of the following:
      • Insufficient diabetic care
      • Bedsores
      • Infections
      • Mobility concerns and falls
      • Other issues
  • Basic Needs Neglect:
    • This occurs when a nursing home fails to provide a resident with enough food, water, or a clean and safe environment.
  • Personal Hygiene Neglect:
    • This occurs when a nursing facility fails to help a resident meet hygiene standards, including dental care, laundry, and bathing.
  • Social or Psychological Neglect:
    • This can include any of the following:
      • Ignoring the resident
      • Leaving the resident alone excessively
      • Consistent cruelty toward the resident
      • Other ways in which the resident doesn’t receive adequate social and emotional care

When an elder suffers neglect, they may develop one or more of the following illnesses or injuries:

  • Amputations
  • Choking
  • Dehydration
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Influenza
  • Malnutrition
  • Medication errors
  • MRSA
  • Poor hygiene
  • Respiratory infections
  • Sepsis
  • Skin infections
  • Soft-tissue infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Wrongful death

Causes of Nursing Home Neglect

There are several reasons why elders may be neglected in nursing homes, but some of the most common causes are as follows:

  • Understaffed Facilities
    • It is very common for nursing homes to be seriously understaffed. When a facility lacks sufficient staffing, its employees are overburdened. This often leads to increased stress levels, exhaustion, and not enough time to adequately care for the needs of all residents or to notice problems.
  • Negligent Staffing
    • This frequently occurs when inexperienced caretakers are hired. Not only do facilities often hire caretakers who are inexperienced (since they cost less than skilled workers), but some nursing homes also may hire people who have criminal backgrounds or other prior employment conduct that make them a high risk of exploiting, mistreating, or neglecting vulnerable seniors.
  • Inadequate Training
    • Caretakers who don’t receive adequate training can easily fall into neglectful routines. An undertrained caretaker has a greater likelihood of making mistakes with prescriptions, mismanaging fragile elders with mobility concerns, and making other errors that lead to insufficient care.

Identifying Nursing Home Neglect

If you are paying close attention, you may be able to spot warning signs of nursing home neglect. If there are only one or two minor signs present, then the facility may not have issues with neglect. However, if there are several warning signs present, then it may be wise to look even closer.

Keep an eye out for the following warning signs:

  • Poor Resident Hygiene
    • Seniors often require assistance with personal care, like brushing their teeth, bathing, and fixing their hair. When nursing homes are understaffed, there often aren’t enough workers to adequately meet the needs of elders, which leads to poor hygiene.
  • Unhygienic Living Conditions
    • Nursing homes must provide clean clothing, bedding, rooms, and living areas to seniors. They should also be clear of pests, mold, etc.
  • Signs of Insufficient Nutrition
    • Malnutrition and dehydration are common in neglectful nursing homes because residents don’t receive meals and/or drinks at the proper times or often enough. If your loved one is malnourished, they will likely experience the following symptoms:
      • Consistent drowsiness or irritability
      • Consistent complaints of being cold, losing hair, and thin skin
  • Losing or Lacking Mobility
    • Good nursing homes have systems in place to ensure seniors are as mobile as possible. Staying active helps seniors preserve their muscle mass and mobility. When nursing homes neglect their residents, seniors tend to lose most or all of their mobility because they are left to sit or lay in bed for extended periods of time.
  • Mysterious Injuries
    • Nursing homes that neglect residents often don’t catch, report, or prevent other types of elder abuse, which leads to a surge in injured residents. Moreover, if staff members further neglect the elders and don’t assist them in time, seniors may ultimately try to help themselves, which often causes more falls and other injuries.
  • Psychological Concerns
    • When seniors are neglected, they often experience emotional issues, such as fear of caretakers, a hesitance to be open with staff, or anger and resentment. Consistent neglect can prompt depression, and some seniors might alienate themselves from friends and family as a result.

What To Do If You Suspect Neglect

Nursing home neglect is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with right away. If you suspect your loved one is being abused in a nursing home, we may be able to help. Our attorneys are highly skilled in helping victims of nursing home abuse and many others obtain justice. Let us see if we can help you, too.

If your loved one is being neglected or abused, our lawyers at Obenshain Law Group may be able to help you seek the justice your family deserves. Give us a call at (540) 318-7360 or fill out an online contact form.