Recognizing Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

The abuse and neglect of nursing home residents is a serious, widespread problem in Virginia. According to a Capital News Service report, state inspectors have penalized nearly a quarter of the state’s 290 nursing homes since 2014 for violations of state and federal regulations. Additionally, roughly one-third of the state’s licensed nursing homes rank “below average” or “much below average” in the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services ratings system. The CMS bases those ratings on staffing levels, health inspection reports and other quality-of-care factors.

Given the risk of abuse and neglect in Virginia nursing homes, you must be vigilant about the care that your loved one receives in a facility. Some experts suggest that you go beyond the quarterly visits that a nursing home schedules. Instead, you should stop by at various times. You can use these visits to:

  • Inspect your loved one and conditions within the facility
  • Talk with your loved one and staff members
  • Monitor your loved one’s interaction with the staff and residents.

Ultimately, you play an important role in protecting your loved one. Here, we provide information about how to get the most out of your nursing home visit. We also discuss how you can recognize abuse and neglect.

If you detect any signs of mistreatment, you should contact Marks & Harrison right away. We will take immediate steps to protect your loved one and hold the nursing home accountable for any harm that your loved one has suffered. With offices in Richmond and nine other locations in Virginia, we can provide a free consultation about your case today.

How Can You Get the Most Out of Your Nursing Home Visit?

Family visiting their relatives in the nursing home.If your schedule permits, you should try to visit your loved one at the nursing home on a regular basis. Regular visits accomplish two things: First, they allow you to see how your loved one lives on a typical, average day at the facility. This gives you a much more realistic picture of the care that he or she receives than an announced visit may provide. Second, you send a message to the staff that you care about your loved one’s treatment and monitor it closely. If you cannot visit your loved one, you should try to arrange regular phone calls and/or video chats.

When you visit the nursing home, you should focus on three aspects:

  • Inspection of the facility – You should use your senses and determine whether there are any signs of neglect. Is your loved one’s room and the common areas in the facility in clean or dirty condition? Is it too cold or too warm? Is the lighting adequate? Do you see any dangers like broken handrails? Are there any bad odors?
  • Conversation with your loved one – You should visually inspect your loved one and ask about the care that he or she receives. You can ask about his or her sleep schedule, meals and medication. Does your loved one feel safe? Do staff members treat her with dignity and respect? You should also talk with the staff and check on whether the facility is sticking to your loved one’s care plan. If any recent emergencies occurred – a fall, for instance – you should ask about how the staff handled it.
  • Monitoring of interactions – Finally, you should simply sit back and observe your loved one’s interaction with the staff and fellow residents. Is he or she isolated or social? Does your loved one appear nervous or anxious around certain people? You should also see how the staff interacts with other residents.

You may have done extensive research before you moved your loved one into the nursing home and felt confident that you chose the right place. However, you need to continue to monitor your loved one’s situation and be ready to act if you detect any “red flags” that indicate mistreatment.

Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

Depressed senior mistreated by the nurse.Unfortunately, many of our elderly loved ones cannot report abuse and neglect that they suffer in a nursing home. They may fear retaliation from staff members or other residents. They may also suffer from a condition such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, which makes it difficult for them to talk about it. This is why you should pay special attention to signs of abuse and neglect when you visit your loved one. Common signs are:

  • Physical abuse – Does your loved one have any cuts, bruises or marks? Did the staff report what happened to you, or has the staff tried to conceal it? Marks in the same area of the body, or with the same shape or pattern, may indicate that a staff member has hit your loved one with an object. Also, burns or marks around the wrists or ankles may indicate that the staff has used physical restraints.
  • Emotional abuse – Did your loved one suddenly change his or her mood and behavior? If he or she grows anxious, depressed or withdrawn – in general or when in the presence of certain individuals – it could indicate that the staff or fellow residents have subjected your loved one to emotional abuse such as threats, insults, humiliation or isolation from others.
  • Sexual abuse – As with physical abuse, marks on your loved one’s body – specifically around the breasts, buttocks or genital area – may be signs of sexual abuse. Also, your loved one may seem nervous or anxious around the abuser.
  • Neglect – Development of bed sores or infections, malnutrition, dehydration and poor physical hygiene are signs of neglect. Additionally, if your loved one shows symptoms that his or her medication should address, it may indicate that the facility is not administering the medication as prescribed (or a staff member may be stealing the medication).
  • Financial Exploitation – Have clothes, jewelry, electronics and other items of value disappeared from your loved one’s room? Have any unusual credit card charges or account withdrawals occurred?

In some cases, a nursing home staff member or administrator may have a reasonable explanation for things that you observe. For instance, your loved one may have suffered a bruise from a fall, and the facility addressed the situation by providing him or her with a cane or walker and by keeping a closer watch. However, if the facility ignores your concerns or fails to give you an answer that satisfies you, you should not wait to take action.

Talk with a Virginia Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Lawyer Today

For more than 100 years, the personal injury attorneys of Marks & Harrison have protected the rights of injury victims and their families in Richmond and throughout Virginia. We take cases of nursing home abuse and neglect seriously. We use the full extent of our skills and resources to seek the answers and compensation that victims deserve. To discuss how we can help you, call or reach us online today. We will provide a free consultation through one of our 10 offices located throughout Virginia.