Sadly, nursing home abuse and elder neglect often go unnoticed. Thousands of residents who cannot speak for themselves or are too afraid to speak up suffer neglect and abuse at the hands of those entrusted with their care. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to spot elder neglect in a nursing home.

Elder Abuse vs. Elder Neglect

There is a difference between elder neglect and elder abuse. However, abuse and neglect often go hand and in hand. Neglect is the failure to provide adequate care and services to a patient. The failure to provide care can be intentional or unintentional, but it results in a dangerous situation that can result in harm, anxiety, and injuries.

Elder abuse in nursing homes is the intentional infliction of injury. The abuse may include physical, verbal, mental, and emotional abuse. The injuries include physical injuries, mental anguish, and emotional trauma.

Whether it is neglect or abuse, nursing home patients can sustain catastrophic injuries and significant emotional harm because of elder neglect and abuse.

Why is it Difficult to Spot Elder Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes?

Patients often cannot tell loved ones they are being neglected and abused. Someone may have threatened to hurt them if they speak up, or they may not have the cognitive ability to discuss the abuse or neglect.

Some patients are simply left in the nursing home by their families. The families do not visit very often. When they visit, they may notice changes in their family members’ health, but staff members may blame the changes on deteriorating health and old age.

In fact, much of the neglect in nursing homes is based on aging and poor health. The staff members may hide the abuse by claiming the patient fell or a patient’s medical condition is progressing faster than expected.

Most of the abuse and neglect in nursing homes go unnoticed and unreported. That needs to change. We need to protect patients who cannot protect themselves. We need to hold nursing homes and individuals accountable for the abuse and neglect they inflict upon vulnerable adults.

What is the Best Way to Spot Elder Neglect in a Nursing Home?

Frequent visits are the best way to spot neglect and abuse in nursing homes. Family members and friends should stop by as often as possible and at random times. Each time, check your loved one for any new signs of abuse or neglect.

Common signs of elder abuse and neglect in a nursing home include:

  • Bruises and lacerations
  • Bedsores from being left in beds without rotating
  • Dehydration and malnutrition
  • Sudden and unexplained weight loss
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Patients left sitting in wheelchairs scattered around the halls
  • Wearing dirty clothing or clothing that has foul odors
  • Broken bones and other unexplained injuries
  • Unsanitary living conditions
  • Lack or loss of mobility
  • Psychological issues, including depression, aggression, and withdrawal

Being familiar with the signs of neglect is another way family members and friends can identify neglect in a nursing home. The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services has additional information about signs of elder abuse and neglect on its website.

What Are the Common Causes of Neglect in Nursing Homes?

There are many reasons for elder neglect in a nursing home.

Common reasons for neglect include:

  • Understaffed facilities and overworked staff members
  • Failure to provide wheelchairs, canes, walkers, and other items residents need to move around freely
  • Inadequate training and supervision
  • Failing to perform background checks and verification of qualifications
  • Intentional disregard for the safety and wellbeing of patients
  • Failing to create and follow fall prevention procedures
  • Alcohol or drug abuse by staff members
  • Failure to administer medication when needed
  • Failing to report signs of illnesses or infections to doctors and nurses
  • Failure to transport patients to the hospital for treatment when necessary
  • Isolating vulnerable patients to reduce the number of patients that need care and attention
  • Excessive use of restrains or sedation medications

The consequences of elder neglect in nursing homes can be deadly. Some patients may not survive very long when they are neglected or abused.

What Should You Do About Elder Neglect in a Nursing Facility?

If you suspect a patient is being neglected or abused, report the neglect to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ Adult Protection Branch. You can also report the neglect to the Kentucky Attorney General. Call the Elder Abuse & Neglect Hotline at 1-877-228-7384, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If a nursing home resident is in immediate danger, call 911 for assistance.

When your family member is safe, seek legal advice from a nursing home abuse lawyer. A lawyer can help you decide on the next steps to take to protect your loved one.

Filing a lawsuit against the nursing home and the responsible parties can serve two purposes. You identify the wrongdoing and may prevent other patients from being neglected. You also hold the parties financially liable for damages caused by their neglect.