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What Should You Do if You Suspect Nursing Home Neglect?

Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Kathy McArthur with McArthur Law Firm.

What Should You Do if You Suspect Nursing Home Neglect?
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Nursing home neglect is an alarmingly common phenomenon that is rarely talked about. While many parties can be responsible for elder neglect and abuse, nursing home neglect can be particularly disheartening. As loved ones seek safe, caring homes for their elderly family members to transition to, there is a level of trust necessary in any facility—trust that the family member will be cared for with the same attention, and compassion as they would have in a caring home environment.

However, understaffing and poor treatment of employees can lead to burnout, which can then result in oversights or even outright neglect regarding patient care. It is the legal responsibility of the care facility to prevent situations in which neglect or abuse are more likely to occur.

When nursing home neglect occurs, the physical, emotional, and mental health of the elderly residents in that home’s care is at stake. If you suspect nursing home neglect, take action to investigate and do what you can to correct the situation and protect your loved one, as well as the many other residents who could be at risk of the same treatment in that facility.

Here are some common physical signs of nursing home neglect and/or abuse:

  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Bedsores
  • Unsanitary living conditions
  • Lack of medical personnel
  • Unexplained bruising
  • Gangrene
  • Broken bones

Here are some common emotional and mental signs of nursing home neglect and/or abuse:

  • Becoming suddenly withdrawn
  • Acting easily agitated
  • Behaving with overt aggression
  • Sudden change in personality

It’s important to stay in close contact with your loved one inside the facility as well as the nursing home staff.

Many signs and symptoms of neglect can be easily overlooked if you aren’t paying close attention. It’s important to be a present, and active figure in the life of your loved one inside the nursing home so they feel safe telling you what kind of treatment they are experiencing when you’re not around.

There is also an added benefit of your involvement, which is that the nursing home staff knows you are aware of what goes on in their facility. It’s a good idea to check in daily with your loved one via phone or video call. If your loved one does not have a device capable of that, purchasing a phone specifically for them to use to contact you is a good investment. Make sure the nursing staff knows that you are going to stay in close touch with your loved one, and request their help in ensuring your loved one feels comfortable contacting you.

If you suspect nursing home neglect or abuse, take action.

If you suspect nursing home neglect or abuse, there are a series of essential steps you must take to report it and begin an investigation. The steps to do so may vary slightly from state to state, so it’s a good idea to check online to learn about your state’s guidelines and how to file a report where you live. If you suspect an elderly person is in immediate danger due to neglect or abuse, call 9-1-1.

Here are some tips for reporting nursing home neglect:

  • Call your state's elder abuse hotline, often found under your state’s Health and Human Services (HHS) department. To access the Division of Aging Services for Georgia, go here and make a report.
  • You may use your state’s elder abuse website to file a report, but this could result in a delay in the report’s processing.
  • You can choose to remain anonymous when you report the neglect, but by doing so you waive the right to be informed of the results of the investigation.
  • When filing an elder neglect/abuse report, you will be asked to answer a series of questions and should do so as thoroughly and accurately as possible. This should include providing the names of any nursing home staff you suspect may be involved in the neglect or allowing the neglect to happen under their supervision.
  • In addition to filing a formal report, you have the opportunity to file a civil claim to pursue compensation for the damages your loved one experienced due to the neglect. If that neglect resulted in the death of your loved one, this includes filing a wrongful death claim.
  • If you directly witness nursing home neglect or abuse, or if you fear an elderly person is in immediate danger, call the police immediately to file a report.

If you suspect a loved one has endured nursing home neglect, seek legal counsel to learn what compensation they could be eligible for, and how to take action.

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