Nursing Home Neglect

One of the most pervasive forms of nursing home abuse today is that of neglect. Nursing home neglect is too frequently overlooked and results all too often in a decline in general health and eventually the death of those elderly people entrusted to nursing home care facilities. The problem can occur anywhere and can take many shapes. What makes this particularly sinister is that it can be overlooked or ignored for so long. Even upon repeated visits to a nursing home, the signs of nursing home neglect can remain hidden.

In order to understand the scope of the problem, it is important to know the different types of nursing home neglect and nursing home abuse. The most obvious, most egregious, and the first that comes to mind for many people is physical neglect. Unfortunately common in nursing homes today, neglect takes many forms, however, all of which are disturbing in their own right. Any of the following forms of neglect warrant contacting a nursing home abuse lawyer to bring justice to the victim of neglect, as well as make conditions safer for other residents.

Personal Hygiene Neglect

For some elderly nursing home residents, standards of personal hygiene are difficult to maintain without assistance from staff. Without external help, residents are left to shift for themselves for a clean change of clothes or even such basics as oral hygiene. Victims of nursing home neglect may not receive the help they need with bathing, grooming, and general cleanliness, and the signs of their abuse become telling with time.

Basic Needs Neglect

Though families often decide nursing homes are the best place for their elderly loved ones to receive care, nursing home neglect may take the form of a failure to provide basic needs. Food and water are the building blocks of life, but an unsettlingly common problem for victims of nursing home neglect is dehydration and malnutrition. A safe and clean environment is exceptionally important for less mobile elderly people, and failure to provide one can also be considered neglect.

Medical Neglect

As with basic needs, most families assume that a nursing home will provide the necessary medical care for their loved ones. This is not always the case. Pressure sores, or bed sores, are a major problem in nursing homes and result from remaining in a seated or reclined position for a great length of time; they must be dealt with in a timely manner to preserve patient health. Untreated cuts, too, must be dealt with quickly to prevent systemic infection in elderly, immune-compromised patients. Neglecting hygiene and physical exercise exacerbates the problem and can be a telling sign of abuse. Additionally, many elderly people need medicine to survive, including diabetics who need insulin. In countless cases nursing homes skimp on treatments or fail to treat entirely.

Emotional Neglect

One of the most difficult types of nursing home neglect to identify does not manifest itself in obvious physical signs. Emotional neglect can be as devastating as any physical abuse but can be much more subtle in its onset and manifestation. Overburdened staff can often let the stress of their everyday tasks prevent friendly interaction with residents. Elderly people are susceptible to depression and may retreat to their rooms, withdraw from social activities, and be in dire need of emotional support and connection. Without a concerted effort of the part of nursing home staff, emotional neglect can take a terrible toll on the residents who so need human connection.

Communication is a key to uncovering nursing home neglect; however, oftentimes the elderly are unable to express to loved ones or authorities what is happening to them. In certain cases, it is because the victim feels unable to convey that abuse is happening. While at times this can be a result of shame or embarrassment, other times the silence that ensues after abuse takes the even more sinister form of a physical or emotional threat that keeps an elderly victim silent. Victims of nursing home neglect and nursing home abuse often perceive no way out of the situation at hand and, without guaranteed protection that whistle-blowing will not lead to more abuse, are unwilling to come forward. Elderly victims of nursing home neglect or nursing home abuse may feel they have little recourse and few legal rights or options available to them.

Ending Neglect

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.

No matter what the cause of nursing home neglect, it is always unacceptable. By educating nursing home staff, elderly residents, and residents' families on the different types of neglect and abuse in nursing homes, the causes of the abuse may start to be discovered and eradicated.

References:

"National Center on Elder Abuse -- Reports and Studies" September 4, 2007http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/NCEAroot/Main_Site/FAQ/Nursing_Home_Abuse/Reports_Studies.aspxl

"National Center on Elder Abuse -- News Articles" September 6, 2007http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/NCEAroot/Main_Site/FAQ/Nursing_Home_Abuse/News_Articles.aspx