When parents or other loved ones are unable to care for themselves due to age or illness, they may need round-the-clock care. The decision to move to a nursing home is a tough one. You probably spent a lot of time choosing the facility where your loved one would live, visiting different nursing homes and asking lots of questions of staff, residents and family members.
You expected the nursing home you selected to provide a safe, caring environment, but elder abuse and neglect is a problem in South Carolina. That’s why it’s important to continue asking questions and making visits to the nursing home after your loved one has moved in. You have to stay vigilant and pay attention to the condition of your loved ones and the facility itself, looking for any indications of trouble.
Here are 8 warning signs that your family member could be in a dangerous nursing home:
- Major physical or emotional changes. If your loved one suddenly becomes withdrawn, stops participating in activities they enjoyed before or has unexplained bruises or other injuries, something might be wrong. Some of these are signs of a medical condition, but they could also point to emotional or physical abuse. Watch the nursing home staff as they interact with your loved one, and ask for explanations for any concerns.
- Malnourishment and dehydration. These are key signs of elder abuse and neglect. When there isn’t enough trained staff, residents might not get all of the food or fluids they need. This is a very serious sign that has to be addressed immediately.
- Inadequate or chaotic staff. Pay attention to the attitudes of the staff toward each other and toward your loved one and other residents. Does the staff get along and interact well? Does information get passed down from shift to shift? Can the nursing director and other leaders be reached easily and are they a strong presence?
- Frequent staff turnover. Working in a nursing home can be a stressful job and some turnover is inevitable. If the staff changes so much that no one seems to know your loved one, that may be a sign of a bigger problem. Untrained or inexperienced staff can lead to errors and mistreatment.
- Avoiding a particular staff member. If your loved one says they don’t want a particular staff member to take care of them, it may be a sign that something is wrong. Being uncomfortable around a staff member can be a sign of abuse. Take it seriously, even if your loved one has cognitive problems. You should also observe interactions when staff enters your loved one’s room. If they are anxious or seem frightened, that’s a serious concern you should take up with the facility’s leadership.
- Questions go unanswered. Nursing staff should always be able to answer your questions, or at least tell you they will find out the answer and then follow up. If you ask about a treatment plan or something that happened to your loved one and don’t get an acceptable answer, or your request is brushed off, that could be cause for concern.
- Staff is difficult to reach. If the phone rings and rings or call lights go unanswered, that’s a sign of staff that is stretched too thin or neglecting duties. If your loved one complains about calls to nursing staff taking too long, test it out yourself. Press the call button and see how long it takes to get answered.
- You get a bad feeling when you walk in. Trust your gut. If you think there’s something wrong with your loved one and the facility, there probably is.
What to Do If You See Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
If you notice any or several of these warning signs, it’s important to voice your concerns to the staff and leadership of the nursing home facility. If it’s a life-threatening emergency, call 911.
You should to do everything you can to keep your loved one safe, even it means finding a new facility. If you don’t think your concerns are being addressed adequately or quickly enough, you should notify the authorities, especially if you have witnessed abuse.
If your loved one has been abused or neglected at a nursing home or other long-term care facility in South Carolina, you should get help from a qualified nursing home abuse lawyer. The facility may be responsible for paying compensation to assist with medical bills and other costs, as well as compensation for pain and suffering and emotional distress.