Many families have a loved one that resides in a long-term care facility such as a nursing home or an assisted living facility. When a loved one resides in a long term care facility, family members should visit often and unannounced. When visiting, family members should look for warning signs of abuse or neglect.
Anyone who observes abuse or neglect when visiting a loved one in a facility needs to report it. Each state is required to have a long-term care ombudsman to which complaints can be made. In addition, complaints can be made to the agency that licenses the facility or to the state’s elder abuse hotline.
Warning Signs of Abuse or Neglect
- Unexplained bruises, welts, scratches or other injuries
- Broken bones or other serious injuries
- Swelling of the ankles and wrists often coupled with bruising
- Bed sores (a/k/a Pressure Sores or Decubitus Ulcers), particularly on the buttocks, heels, shoulders, or elbows
- Dehydration and/or malnutrition
- Unexplained weight loss
- Changes in loved one’s mental state that isn’t a symptom of their disease
- Isolation of your loved one from visitors
- Belittling, insulting, humiliation or threats by a caregiver
- Contracture – your loved one’s muscles have remained in one place so long they freeze or “contract” in a particular position
- Unclean surroundings such as floors, walls, doors, sinks, or toilets
- Filthy facility conditions such as evidence of vermin, mold, excess dust, or debris
- Untreated wounds
- Your loved one is left in soiled clothing or undergarments
- Signs of facility infestations such as the presence of ants, roaches, maggots, or bed bugs
Do you have suspicions of abuse or neglect?
How to Act
Document any incidents of suspected abuse or neglect. Be sure to document the conditions with photographs if possible. However, be sure to protect the dignity and privacy of the residents and the loved one when doing so.
Immediately report the suspected abuse or neglect to:
- the state long-term care ombudsman,
- the state’s abuse hotline, or
- the agency that licenses the facility, and
- to the facility administrator
If you believe your loved one needs protection or to file legal action against a person or facility for the injuries, contact an attorney that specializes in dealing with abuse and neglect claims against long-term care facilities.