As parents age, they can become less independent and unable to properly care for themselves without hands-on assistance you cannot always provide. Nursing homes are viable options to help mom or dad maintain their health and their sense of dignity. But what happens if the facility fails to provide the safety and security entitled to some of our most vulnerable citizens?
There are up to 1.5 million people living in U.S. nursing homes. Many of these elderly residents are immobile and need help bathing and dressing, using the toilet, making or eating meals and taking medications. They require direct care and service that is not optional. They should not suffer because of inattention or indifference.
Chronic understaffing in New Jersey’s 360 nursing homes exposes the state’s 44,000 residents to potential neglect and abuse from incompetent or poorly trained caregivers. The state ranks 45th with 2.27 hours of direct care service hours per resident compared to top-ranked Alaska’s four. Elderly residents are often physically weak or frail. Others suffer from mental health problems such as Alzheimer’s that makes them especially defenseless.
Some injuries are telltale signs of neglect or abuse:
- Bedsores. Also known as pressure ulcers, they form on the skin and can penetrate muscle and tendons if left untreated. Thin skin and poor circulation make older people particularly susceptible.
- Fractures. Brittle bones are prone to breaking when patients slip or fall or get into or out of bed.
- Infections. Untreated cuts and wounds can worsen and cause more serious illness.
- Malnutrition and dehydration. Weight loss and lethargy often are attributable to poorly managed meals and fluid intake.
- Medication errors. Patients often take several medications. Overdoses can leave them at risk of seizures. Some require workers to split pills or provide them with food. Failing to take those steps can harm the patient.
Normally, nursing homes provide safe and beneficial environments for elderly residents to thrive and maintain quality of life. But sometimes they are hesitant to describe problems because of fear or embarrassment. You might be the best person to recognize whether your loved one has suffered neglect or abuse and report it to caregivers and administrators. Nursing home residents are entitled to respect and quality care. There are remedies if these facilities mistreated your family members.
A nursing home can be held liable if the owner or employees neglected to supervise your loved one’s care, hired careless workers or failed to professionally train them to manage their needs. The home also is responsible for keeping the premises safe from hazards and medical equipment up to quality standards.
It can be difficult for your parents to give up the freedom of living at home and surrender to specialty care. But they should not have to sacrifice their self-esteem and humanity. You have a right to voice your grievances. Investigate and document your suspicions. There may be damages to pursue.