What Does Nursing Home Negligence Look Like?

Nursing home neglect is a pervasive and yet often overlooked issue. This is because many people don’t view actions not taken as harmful, yet neglect can be just as dangerous as abuse. Nursing home neglect, or nursing home negligence, is a type of abuse that involves the substandard care of nursing home residents. In many cases, it also involves the breach of one or more caretakers’ duty to protect the residents.

Nursing Home Negligence Statistics

According to the U.S. Justice Department, nursing home neglect is one of the most common types of elder abuse and more common than sexual, emotional and financial abuse. Yet, it’s one of the most under reported. Though a 2011 study found that approximately 21% of all nursing home residents were the victim of neglect at least once over a 12-month period, researchers believe that the number is much higher than that. The Department believes that only one in every 57 cases of caregiver neglect are ever reported.

The Types and Dangers of Neglect

Nursing home neglect can take many forms, but it almost always involves the substandard care of an elderly person or the failure to perform typical caregiver duties. Common types of nursing home negligence include the following:

  • Neglect of Basic Needs: This occurs when a nursing home or caregiver fails to provide the sick or elderly with the most basic of necessities needed to survive. Those include food, water and a safe, clean environment.
  • Medical Neglect: Medical neglect occurs when nursing home staff fail to attend to a resident’s medical needs. This may entail failing to administer a patient’s medicine, administering too high of a dose or the wrong medicine, failing to turn a resident so that he or she does not develop bedsores, not assisting with a resident’s mobility, etc.
  • Emotional or Social Neglect: This may occur when nursing home staff leave a resident isolated for long periods of time, dole out consistently unkind treatment or fail to provide for a resident’s emotional needs in some other way.
  • Neglect of Personal Hygiene: This refers to the failure to help a resident maintain his or her personal hygiene and health. Activities related to this include dental care, laundry, bathing, dressing, etc.

Nursing home neglect can be just as harmful than abuse. In cases that involve long-term neglect, it can also be deadly. Possible outcomes of such mistreatment include the following:

  • Dehydration
  • Influenza
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Choking
  • Malnutrition
  • Medical errors
  • Respiratory infections
  • MRSA
  • Amputations
  • Skin infections
  • Soft-tissue infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Wrongful death

Though the signs of early neglect are not always obvious, loved ones can look for certain indications that a nursing home and/or its staff are guilty of providing substandard care. Unsanitary living conditions and poor resident hygiene are two of the most obvious outward markers. Unexplained injuries, inadequate nutrition and loss or lack of mobility may also be warning signs. Finally, residents who are victims of neglect may demonstrate psychological or behavioral changes, such as anger, resentment and a reluctance to open up in front of caregivers.

Reasons for Nursing Home Neglect

Nursing home abuse and neglect does not necessarily occur because caretakers are cruel. In fact, according to federal data, the main cause of neglect is understaffed nursing homes. When a facility does not have an adequate number of caretakers, the caretakers it does have become overburdened, stressed and exhausted. The caretakers may also not have enough hours in the day to properly tend to the needs of all residents.

Negligent hiring is another common cause of nursing home neglect. Negligent hiring occurs when a nursing home hires caretakers without thoroughly reviewing their criminal histories or backgrounds. These negligent hires often have a high risk of mistreating or abusing vulnerable individuals, which is why it is essential that a facility has a thorough screening process in place.

Finally, nursing home negligence may be the result of inadequate training. Caretakers who are not properly trained to care for elderly and vulnerable adults are more likely to mishandle elderly adults, make innocent yet harmful mistakes and provide substandard care.

What To Do If You Suspect Nursing Home Negligence

If you suspect that your loved one is the victim of nursing home negligence, the first thing you should do is address it head on with the supervisor. In many cases, the neglect could be an innocent and easily remedied mistake. However, if the abuse continues, report it to local law enforcement right away. Law enforcement can safely remove the resident and deliver him or her to a loved one’s home or another facility. You may also want to report the abuse to adult protective services, social services and/or a long-term care ombudsman. If the neglect resulted in severe physical or psychological trauma, you may want to contact an elder abuse attorney. The right attorney can advise you on what you need to do to protect your loved one’s rights and well-being. You can learn more about how our team can help on our nursing home negligence page.