Risk Factors of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse and neglect is a growing concern for family members. The National Council on Elder Abuse (NCEA) reports that over half of surveyed nursing home staff have abused or neglected residents.
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How You Can Select the Safest Nursing Home for Your Loved One
Lack of an Abuse Prevention Policy
The ideal nursing home has a mandatory abuse prevention and awareness program for all staff. Staff members are often unaware of the personal and professional triggers that can lead to a slippery slope of elder abuse.
Poor or Inadequate Training and Oversight
Licensed nursing homes must have Registered Nurses (RN) on staff. RNs are responsible for other nurses, Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA), and aides. They also communicate with the facility physician. You have the right to ask about training and oversight procedures since they directly affect your loved one’s care. What is the training for nurses, assistants, and aides? Is there adequate overnight, weekend, and holiday supervision?
Stressful Working Conditions for Staff
Overstressed workers are more likely to abuse or neglect residents. Are staff members constantly expected to work overtime or skip their lunch break? Is there a secluded area for staff to relax, eat, or talk? Does the general atmosphere seem tense or are the relationships between residents and staff genial?
High Resident-to-Staff Ratio
Staff members who have the greatest amount of interaction with residents are under greater stress. This is true of most CNAs and aides, who bear the burden of daily tasks such as feeding, changing, and patient transfers. The more patients who need their care, the greater the risk for rough handling, abusive behavior, or neglect.
High Turnover of Nursing Home Staff
Be wary of nursing facilities with fluctuating staff levels or a high rate of employee turnover. This could be indicators of a dysfunctional work environment or a facility that has too many residents for its staff. Look for nursing homes where employee longevity is the rule rather than the exception.
Facility With a History of Abuse and Violations
State and federal laws regulate nursing homes, and when if they break those laws, that information is in public records. It is important to scrutinize any facility with a record of citations for abuse or neglect. What corrective steps has the facility taken? Sometimes, a violation prompts positive changes in policy, training, and management.
Outdated Building and Inadequate Building Maintenance
Numerous nursing homes were built in the 1960s using federal aid. If these facilities are not up to modern standards, they could pose a threat to your loved one’s health and safety. Signs of an outdated building include cracks in the foundation and insufficient heating or cooling systems. State agencies require nursing homes to display proof of inspection, but this alone does not guarantee a safe environment.
Minimal or Infrequent Visits by Family and Friends
Unscrupulous caregivers prey on vulnerable residents who have little or no contact with family and friends. Residents with regular visitors are more visible and therefore more likely to be noticed if there is evidence of abuse or neglect. Family members who live too far for regular visits should call often. Family members should also strive to stay current with their loved one’s daily activities and medical issues.
Function Dependence Increases Risk of Abuse or Neglect
Residents who are disabled or who need help with daily activities such as eating, walking, bathing, and going to the toilet are more at risk of abuse or neglect. Their total reliance on a caregiver also increases the likelihood that they will not report abuse or violence.
Poor Health of Resident
Bedridden patients and those in poor health are easier to overlook or ignore than healthier, more active residents. Like those with functional dependence on staff members, residents with serious medical conditions are easier targets for abuse. They typically are too weak or frail to fight back or speak out.
Cognitive Impairment or Dementia
A study by the University of California found that nearly 50 percent of seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or cognitive disorder suffered nursing home abuse or neglect. Abusive staff members can easily hide behind the faulty memory and reasoning of a resident with cognitive impairments. In the case of financial abuse or fraud, the resident may not even know what is happening.
Use Your Senses and Trust Your Instincts
You do not have to be an expert on elder abuse to spot potential risk factors. In addition to the 11 factors listed here, be alert to anything you may find suspicious when selecting a nursing facility:
- Is the building clean with proper adaptations for disabled residents?
- Are residents wandering aimlessly or left alone in wheelchairs?
- Are there unpleasant odors like urine, discarded food, or body odor?
- Do the residents seem well-nourished and comfortable?
- Overall, what is your gut reaction to the home, staff, and residents?
Be Aware of Staff Who Speak or Act Harshly to Residents
Nursing home staff members are not immune to occasional frustration or bad moods. However, stay away from a facility that tolerates any staff member’s abusive language or rough handling. If you see this kind of disturbing behavior during a visit, it continues or intensifies after you leave.
There is Help If You Need It
Hopefully, your loved one has a safe and comfortable home in a skilled nursing facility. However, there are resources and nursing home abuse lawyers available if you need them. For a free consultation, please call (800) 516-4783.