As the number of elderly adults in the United States continues to grow, so does the prevalence of neglect in nursing homes, as facilities simply don’t have the resources to properly care for all the people who require their services.
”Most neglect occurs as a result of understaffing,” said Annie Andrews, an attorney with the Steinberg Law Firm. “Caregivers often have good intentions, but they are spread incredibly thin. They don’t have the time to properly care for each resident.”
Issues that often arise in these conditions include bedsores or falls because no one is available to help a resident to the bathroom or shower.
Andrews said if your loved one is a resident of a nursing home, it is important to identify possible signs of neglect and causes for concern. They include:
- The facility has a foul odor.
- There are not many staff members visible.
- You have difficulty getting in touch with the facility’s administrator, or the nurses on staff don’t return your phone calls when you have questions about your loved one’s care.
- You notice a serious lack of hygiene. For example, your mother’s hair looks unkempt or your father, who once shaved regularly, hardly shaves at all – or maybe they aren’t changing their clothes regularly.
“These are all warning signs,” Andrews said.
She added that one of the most telling signs of neglect is bedsores, which start as small bruises on a person’s backside. They worsen over time, turning from bruises to blisters and finally to open sores “that almost look like animal bites.” Nurses are required to periodically turn bedridden residents to prevent bedsores, but that doesn’t always happen.
Andrews said it’s vitally important to be involved in creating and monitoring your loved one’s Care Plan, which, under state regulations, must be established within 14 days of a resident’s arrival at a nursing home. Health assessments are required every 90 days and whenever a resident’s health drastically changes.
What should you do if you suspect a nursing home is neglecting your loved one? Andrews said your first move should be to contact the facility’s Administrator. This is the quickest means to observe an improvement in your loved one’s care. You also can file a complaint with the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, either online or by phone call.
”I recommend doing it online because you can submit any supporting documents you might have,” Andrews suggested.
She pointed out that if the situation isn’t resolved or if your loved one has suffered serious injury or died while in the care of a nursing home facility, you should seek legal help.
”Any time someone calls us and feels their loved one may have been the victim of neglect, we believe it is an important matter, even if it doesn’t rise to the level of a legal case,” Andrews said. “Nursing home neglect must be brought into the public eye. Otherwise, there is no accountability and services in our community don’t improve.”
Do you suspect that your loved one might be the victim of nursing home neglect? If you need assistance with this important issue, contact the Steinberg Law Firm, which has offices in Charleston, Goose Creek, and Summerville.
To learn more, visit www.steinberglawfirm.com or call 843-720-2800.