Nursing home neglect is a frequently overlooked form of abuse occurring in long term care facilities. If left unnoticed and unaddressed, neglect can lead to a general decline in a nursing home resident’s health, and can even lead to death in certain cases. Neglect is difficult to detect, in part, because the consequences of neglect may be hidden by the patients’ general condition or ailments. Nursing home neglect often happens over a long period of time, making subtle changes in a patient’s condition difficult to detect. In order to understand the scope of this problem, it is important to recognize the different types and symptoms of nursing home neglect.
The most obvious form of neglect is physical neglect, which can take many shapes and forms. The worst cases of elder neglect may involve deprivation of a resident’s basic needs, such as food and water, resulting in dehydration and malnutrition. A safe and clean environment, with proper nutrition, is vital to anyone; but it is especially important for the elderly, who may already have compromised health. You might assume that any resident would have access to and would be provided with all necessary medical care; but this is not always the case.
Bedsores, also known as pressure sores, are common to nursing home residents. Bedsores, which are caused when a resident remains seated or reclined for great lengths of time, can be prevented with frequent repositioning (generally every two hours). Left unattended, a patient suffering from bedsores can quickly develop serious illness and infection, resulting in amputation or death.
Nursing home residents often require medicine administered regularly and timely, such as a diabetic resident needing insulin shots. A failure to do so, is yet another type of neglect. Residents living in assisted living communities often rely on others to help them maintain a certain level of hygiene. Without this assistance, residents’ bathing and grooming habits and overall cleanliness and quality of life may suffer. Emotional neglect is much more difficult to detect because it does not manifest itself in the same way as physical neglect. Emotional neglect, however, can have devastating consequences too – leading to depression, social withdrawal, or deteriorating mental condition. It is estimated that nearly 20% of all reported elder abuse is emotional.
Nursing home neglect may be a result of facility understaffing. Most studies assume that neglectful nursing home staff members are not acting in a malicious manner, but are instead responding to the highly stressful work environment, which is made more difficult by insufficient staffing or time to complete necessary patient care tasks. Many seniors don’t report the abuse they face, even though they may be able to do so. Some fear retaliation from the abuser, while others believe that if they turn in their abusers, no one else will take care of them. In order to eradicate nursing home neglect and other forms of nursing home abuse, it is vital that effective communication take place to facilitate a clear understanding of the nature of the neglect. Once this step has been taken, legal options become more readily available to victims, and the sources of the abuse can be dealt with.