What Is Elder Care Neglect?

As our country’s population ages, it is inevitable that many will need additional care. While some people may be able to care for elderly family members themselves, others may need to hire home health aides or move loved ones into nursing homes or other assisted living facilities.

While many of these facilities offer quality care to their residents, it is important to be able to recognize signs of negligence and neglect.

According to the Nursing Home Abuse Center, “Nursing home neglect is the most common type of elder abuse in nursing facilities, with 95 percent of nursing home residents reporting neglect in the past year.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately 500,000 adults over the age of sixty are abused or neglected each year, and it is likely there are many cases that are never reported.

While often discussed under the heading of elder abuse, nursing home neglect presents itself in subtly different ways. Nursing home abuse occurs when a caregiver harms a patient. Nursing home neglect, however, occurs when a caregiver provides substandard care or commits a breach of duty.

Types of Nursing Home Neglect
While nursing home neglect varies based on individual cases, there are four major categories:

  • Medical Neglect – when a nursing home fails to appropriately attend to or prevent medical issues of the patients, such as diabetes care, bed sores, infections, mobility, and cognitive disorders
  • Neglect of Basic Needs – when a facility fails to ensure that patients have a clean, safe environment, such as appropriate food, water, and shelter
  • Neglect of Personal Hygiene – when a nursing home fails to provide satisfactory aid to residents who need assistance with tasks, such as cleaning, bathing, tooth brushing, laundry, and/or other types of hygiene
  • Social or Emotional Neglect – when staff members demean patients, such as consistent rejection, abandonment, or verbal abuse

Warning Signs of Nursing Facility Neglect
Because warning signs of neglect can be slight, they can be difficult to identify. At times, depending on the type of negligence, there may be no outward signs of neglect. Often, behavioral changes in patients will be noticed only by those who see their loved ones frequently.

Although neglect can be difficult to identify and prove, these are some of the most common signs:

  • Malnutrition, dehydration, and/or sudden weight loss
  • Bed sores and/or pressure ulcers
  • Falls that result in injury
  • Withdrawal from activities/socializing
  • Change in hygiene habits or physical appearance
  • Hazards such as slippery floors, bad lighting, or unsafe furniture and equipment

What Can I Do?

If you believe your loved one is being neglected or abused, move him/her to a safe environment and call the police or Adult Protective Services. The next step is to consider taking legal action. Nursing home negligence and/or abuse may be seen as a crime and could be grounds for a civil lawsuit.

The facility may be liable if it participated in the following behavior:

  • Negligent Medical Treatment – failure to provide correct medication and/or treatment to residents
  • Negligent Supervision – failure to properly supervise residents to avoid falls and other accidents
  • Negligent Hiring – failure to complete appropriate background checks when hiring employees who have records of abuse or negligence, or the improper training and/or supervision of employees
  • Negligent Safety – failure to maintain a safe facility with enforced health and safety practices, such as protection from other residents, prevention from accidents, and maintenance of living conditions

Fields, Dehmlow & Vessels has successfully represented clients who have been harmed in nursing homes and other assisted-living arrangements, and we have extensive knowledge of both state and federal nursing care laws and regulations. Additionally, we work on a contingent fee: there is no fee if there is no recovery. If you suspect that your loved one is the victim of neglect or preventable injuries at a nursing home or long-term care facility, contact us at 740-374-5346. We are here to help.