Caring for an aging parent or grandparent is sometimes impossible on your own - so you make the tough call to place them in a nursing home, where you feel they will get the care and attention they need. You did all you could - you researched, visited nursing homes, asked the right questions and trusted your gut to find the best place for your loved one. But now, things seem off.
You start to wonder if your parent or grandparent is just having a hard time adjusting to the change, or if there is something seriously wrong.
Unfortunately, abuse in nursing homes is a serious issue impacting nursing homes in Texas and across the country. One of the most common types of abuse is neglect. When a resident at a nursing home is not receiving the care they need, including assistance with eating, bathing and getting out of bed when they can't do it on their own, they are being neglected. Neglect can cause both physical and psychological consequences to your loved one. Here are 4 red flags to watch for:
1) A negative shift in personal hygiene
Is your loved one not able to get dressed without help, and is he or she wearing the same clothes day after day when you visit? Does it seem they haven't brushed their teeth, taken a bath or are their nails growing longer without someone to help clip their nails? Is their hair not combed? Is this out of the norm for your loved one? These are signs that staff members of the nursing home may be neglecting your loved one and their personal hygiene. Poor personal hygiene can lead to health problems if it is not properly addressed.
2) Physical changes from malnutrition and dehydration
Whether the nursing home is short-staffed causing oversight when it comes to making sure your loved one eats and stays hydrated, or whether there is another reason he or she is not eating, there is no excuse for an elderly person not getting the help they need to eat. Poor nutrition impacts nursing home residents across the country - an estimated 20 percent of international nursing home residents had some form of malnutrition.
If you notice there is chaos in staffing, high turnover, disorganization or inadequate staff with bad attitudes, there may be something more going on than your loved one not in the mood to eat because of the new adjustment to living in a nursing home.
3) Physical marks or injuries from trying to do things on their own
When an elderly person is neglected, especially when they need help being mobile and moving around, they are more at risk for falling. Staff that are not there to help them out of bed, to help them get to the bathroom, or to help them get dressed may leave some nursing home residents trying to do it all on their own - when they can't. If they are frequently falling because of this, you may notice marks or bruises, or more serious injuries, like broken bones or head injuries.
4) Emotional distress
Is your loved one afraid of the nursing home staff, or a particular staff member? Do they appear to be angry, resentful or depressed? While some parents and grandparents find it easy to open up to their loved ones about what's really going on, others may shut down and avoid talking about it. They may feel embarrassed to bring it up, or worse - feel like it is their fault this is happening to them.
They may even begin to start neglecting themselves - refusing to eat or take their medicine. Any changes in your parent or grandparent's emotional health should be taken seriously and addressed right away.
While it may be difficult to think about the bad things that could be happening to your loved one, this is a reality at some nursing homes across the state and country. An elder law attorney can help ensure their rights are being upheld, and can provide advocacy to both you and them to make sure their needs are met. It can be heartbreaking to find out this is happening to your loved one. An attorney can help you figure out how to report neglect or abuse in a nursing home, and what steps to take to make your loved one's life better again.