If you are one of the numerous New Yorkers who had to make the difficult decision to place your parent in a nursing home, it likely was one of the most painful decisions you have ever had to make. Even though you know that your parent’s age, illness, infirmity or condition makes it necessary that (s)he receive constant care that you cannot provide yourself, nevertheless, you worry that the nursing home staff may not really give him or her the care (s)he deserves and to which (s)he is entitled.
Unfortunately, your fears and concerns may well be justified. Nursing home abuse and neglect horror stories abound. Just this summer, an 87-year-old patient fell 30 feet to his death when he attempted to escape the Emerald South Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Buffalo by climbing out a window. Federal statistics show that a shocking 40 percent of New York nursing homes provide inferior care.
Every time you visit your parent, look for the following six red flags that staff could be abusing or neglecting him or her.
- Signs of Injury
Always check your parent for any signs of a recent injury such as bruises, cuts, scrapes or swelling. Falls are the most common nursing home accidents. Many elderly patients have neither the strength nor the stamina to walk around unassisted, but often they do not receive the assistance they need when they need it. If no one responds to your parent’s call light or buzzer when (s)he needs to walk to the bathroom, (s)he soon will become impatient and decide to get there on her own, sometimes with disastrous consequences. If (s)he falls, (s)he runs a high risk of breaking a hip or receiving a traumatic brain injury. During a recent five-year period, more than 142,000 elderly peoplereceived emergency room treatment for a TBI nationwide. Of these, 81,500 required hospitalization and 14,300 ultimately died from their injuries.
- Poor Personal Hygiene
Regardless of your parent’s illness or condition, (s)he should always present a clean and neat appearance any time you visit him or her. It is the staff’s responsibility to make sure that (s)he exhibits none of the following:
- Body or mouth odor
- Uncombed hair
- Overly long fingernails or toenails
- Unclean, disheveled or inappropriate clothing
- Unsanitary Living Conditions
Your parent’s room likewise should be clean and neat, with no clutter over which (s)he could trip and fall. All bathroom surfaces should basically sparkle and you should catch no whiff of odor or see any evidence of dirt or mold.
- Nutritional Problems
Your parent should always appear well fed and well hydrated. Take him or her seriously if (s)he complains about insufficient food, water or other drinks. Poor nutrition can cause him or her to become even weaker than (s)he already is and also can make him or her less likely to want to interact with you or anyone else.
- Psychological Problems
If your parent ever appears to be unusually distant, uncommunicative, confused or depressed, this is a serious sign of abuse and/or neglect. Do your best to ferret out why (s)he feels the way (s)he does, and pay particular attention to any complaint (s)he has about one or more specific caregivers and/or one or more specific residents.
- General Facility Conditions
Nursing homes are notoriously understaffed, and too few employees means inadequate patient care. Note the facility’s overall interior and exterior appearance. Is it clean, well kept and free of odors and clutter? Are there too many ringing telephones? Do call lights stay on too long? Does the staff seem hurried, harried and overwhelmed? Do they take the time to answer your questions or do they put you off with evasive and insufficient answers?
Unfortunately, you must assume the responsibility for proactively overseeing your parent’s wellbeing. (S)he may not be in a position to realize exactly what is going on around him or her and the possible consequences thereof due to his or her illness or condition.
If you believe your parent is suffering from nursing home abuse or neglect, please call Richard A. Dubi toll-free at 833-FOR-DUBI (833-367-3824).