Is My Relative Vulnerable to Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect?

Personal Injury Lawyer Trenton, NJ

Nursing home neglect and abuse can strike any elderly resident of an assisted living or skilled nursing facility.  One would like to believe that such abuse is obvious.  Unfortunately, it can be difficult for family members to determine when a relative is falling victim to such mistreatment until it is too late. And, while there are,certain risk factors which may increase the chances that a resident will sustain abuse or neglect, that does not mean mistreatment is inevitable. Rather, family members must be aware and keep a watchful eye, and must take immediate action if they have cause to suspect that abuse or neglect is happening.

Q: I noticed the ratio of patient to staff is very high, is that concerning?

A: Yes.  Many long-term care facilities have high turnover rates among staff members.  This means there are less staff members available at any given time who know the needs of the patients and are readily available to assist.  More troubling, facilities with high turn-over rates tend to be short staffed.  In some cases, there may be so little staff members on shift that a resident may quickly become neglected.  As a concerned relative, you must keep in mind that the facility has a legal duty to hire and provide enough caregivers to support the needs of the residents. If you are concerned your relative has not been provided every meal, if you find they are receiving poor hygiene, etc., its likely time for further investigation.

Q: Are all staff at the nursing home qualified to provide care?

A: Of course, the answer to this will vary depending on the facility, and some caregivers may have higher qualifications than others. However, the unfortunate truth is that the answer to this important question is frequently “No.”   Some facilities attempt to justify their hiring practices by claiming that those with lesser credentials are “supervised” by others.  But what happens when staff members who are under-qualified have to assist a resident alone because there are not enough fully-qualified  caregivers around?  In such facilities, this is certain to occur eventually, and the results are usually not good.  A staff member who has not been trained to handle certain situations may commit abuse or neglect accidentally (a/k/a “negligently”) or may harm a resident when acting out of frustration.  Either way, harm is virtually guaranteed to occur at some point.

Q: Does the amount of visitors a resident gets matter?

A: Yes.  In fact, frequent visitation is among the most vital ways you can help prevent your loved one from falling victim to mistreatment or abuse.  Caregivers know who come to visit, and may respond to that “watchful eye” and deliver better care to residents who get regular visitors as compared to those who do not. Of course, visiting regularly does not guarantee good care will be delivered, but it certainly doesn’t hurt and may lead to the more timely discovery of abuse or neglect if/when it does occur.

Q: What if my relative has dementia or alzheimer’s?

A: Residents who have trouble communicating or remembering events are generally at even greater risk for mistreatment. They are some of the most challenging patients and tend to test the patience of their care givers.  Those with dementia or alzheimer’s disease may also get taken advantage of by caregivers who know these residents will often have trouble remembering or expressing what has happened. Also, even if the resident does tell their loved ones about the abuse, they may not be believed if they are perceived as unreliable due to the diagnosis.

Q: What should I do if I find out my relative is being abused?

A: Before leaving the facility, take photographic evidence of how your relative has been mistreated. Whether this be a filthy living condition, unexplained physical wounds, or other such circumstances, gather proof before filing a report to the facility. The facility’s staff may try to clean up the evidence if you submit a complaint before you have a chance to document it through photographs. If you file a lawsuit against the facility with a personal injury lawyer Trenton, NJ relies on, such as the lawyers at Davis & Brusca, the strength of your case may depend on what evidence you can bring forward to show the abuse or neglect and how it occurred.

Contact Davis & Brusca, LLC for their insight into personal injury cases and what you can do about your loved one’s nursing home abuse or neglect.