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Nursing Home Neglect

Negligence in Nursing Homes

Quick Answer

Nursing home neglect — the improper care of nursing home residents — is shockingly common. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), roughly 95% of nursing home residents have been neglected or have witnessed neglect. A lack of medical care in nursing homes can have serious consequences, including death. However, residents and their loved ones can take steps to help prevent neglect.

What Is Nursing Home Neglect?

Nursing home neglect is a type of elder abuse committed against older adults in assisted living facilities. Neglect involves poor care or breaches of duty that cause residents to suffer.

an old man in a wheelchair sits outside

Examples of nursing home neglect include:

  • Leaving a resident with mobility issues in their room for hours at a time
  • Not calling a doctor or nurse when needed
  • Not changing a resident’s clothes or bedding regularly
  • Not cleaning a resident on a daily basis
  • Not giving residents enough food or water
  • Not treating a resident’s injuries or illnesses (bedsores, infections, etc.)

Though neglect is not as violent as other forms of nursing home abuse, it can be just as harmful to the physical and mental health of older adults.

Victims of nursing home neglect can take legal action.

Contact our team right now to learn how you can pursue financial aid and hold facilities accountable. You can also get started right now with a free case review.

Types of Nursing Home Neglect

Elder neglect can take many forms, including:

Abandonment

This occurs when those responsible for an elder desert them with no regard for their well-being.

In 2020, The New York Times noted that nursing homes were removing nursing home residents to make room for COVID-19 patients, which would increase their profits. In one case, a Los Angeles nursing home kicked out an 88-year-old man with dementia and sent him to a homeless shelter without telling his family members.

Medical Neglect

Medical neglect is when nursing home care providers fail to properly treat or prevent health problems. This can result in inadequate diabetic care, bedsores, infections, mobility issues, and other health problems.

Neglect of Basic Needs

This type of neglect occurs when nursing homes fail to provide residents with enough food or water, or a clean, safe environment.

As a result, residents may suffer from malnutrition or dehydration. Residents may also be at a higher risk of many other issues, like falling or theft, if their environment is unsafe.

Neglect of Personal Hygiene

This is the failure of a nursing facility to properly help a resident with dental care, laundry, and bathing. Residents suffering from a neglect of personal hygiene may appear dirty and wear soiled clothes.

Self-Neglect

This occurs when an older adult loses the ability to care for themselves but does not seek assistance, or refuses help, from others.

Think twice if you believe self-neglect is occurring in a nursing home. Remember, nursing home staff members are supposed to prevent residents from neglecting themselves. If your loved one is showing signs of neglect in a nursing home, the staff might not be doing their job properly.

Social or Emotional Neglect

This may involve ignoring a nursing home resident, leaving them alone, or not letting them interact with friends, family, or other residents.

Residents with physical or mental disabilities could have a higher risk of social neglect, as they may rely on caregivers to help them move and interact with others.

Neglect may stem from or lead to many issues, like:

Warning Signs of Nursing Home Neglect

Those concerned about a nursing home’s quality of care can look for red flags that may mean neglect is occurring.

There are six warning signs of nursing home neglect:

Loss or Lack of Mobility

Good nursing homes have programs and policies to keep residents physically active and mobile.

Neglectful nursing homes may leave residents sitting in their beds or wheelchairs for long periods of time, causing them to develop mobility issues.

Poor Resident Hygiene

Many elderly people need help with personal health care, such as brushing their teeth and bathing.

Nursing homes without enough staff members often fail to keep residents clean and healthy.

Psychological Issues

Neglect may lead to emotional issues, such as fear of caregivers, a reluctance to open up to staff, or anger and resentment.

Constant neglect can cause anxiety or depression, and some residents may distance themselves from friends and family members as a result.

Signs of Inadequate Nutrition

Many residents in neglectful nursing homes suffer from malnutrition and dehydration because they are not getting enough food or water.

Loved ones should look for signs of malnutrition, such as tiredness or irritability, complaints of being cold, hair loss, and papery skin.

Unexplained Injuries

Nursing homes with staffing issues are less likely to prevent nursing home residents from accidentally — or intentionally — harming themselves or others. Residents may suffer from serious injuries like broken bones, cuts, and scrapes as a result.

Furthermore, staff members may not report nursing home injuries in a timely manner or even know how a resident was injured.

Unsanitary Living Conditions

A nursing home should provide clean clothing, bedding, and living areas. Facilities should also be free from pests and mold. If a nursing home is often dirty, your loved one may be at a higher risk of neglect.

Causes of Elder Neglect in Nursing Homes

Understaffing

When a nursing facility does not have enough staff, each resident receives less attention, increasing the risk of neglect. Federal data from 2018 found that most U.S. assisted living facilities are understaffed.

Negligent Hiring

This involves hiring caretakers who are at high risk of neglecting older adults.

Nursing homes should follow a thorough screening process to check an applicant’s criminal background and certifications. If they don’t, they may end up hiring people with a track record of abusing or neglecting seniors.

Inadequate Training

Nursing home staff members who are not properly trained for their roles can slip into patterns of neglect.

Undertrained caretakers are more likely to make mistakes with medications, mishandle elderly residents, and create other problems that harm older adults.

What to Do About Nursing Home Neglect

Data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests that nursing home neglect is very common. Between 2013 and 2017, 31% of nursing homes were cited for quality of care issues at least five times.

However, steps can be taken to help prevent neglect and report it to authorities.

Reporting Nursing Home Neglect

If a loved one has suffered nursing home negligence, make sure to report it to the authorities as soon as possible. Doing so can prevent further harm from coming to your loved one.

Left untreated, health problems stemming from neglect can lead to depression, permanent disability, or even death. Neglect may mean other forms of abuse are taking place, too.

It’s also important to report neglect quickly, as there are time limits called statutes of limitations in each state. These limits can prevent you from seeking justice and financial aid if you wait too long.

If a loved one is the victim of nursing home neglect, contact:

  • Local Law EnforcementCall 911 in the event of an emergency. Police or paramedics can remove a resident from a neglectful nursing home and deliver them to a safe location.Police can also conduct a criminal investigation to determine if the nursing home has broken any laws.
  • Adult Protective Services (APS)A state’s APS office will generally be in charge of investigating non-urgent complaints of nursing home neglect. An agent can conduct a welfare check on a resident and recommend next steps.
  • Long-Term Care OmbudsmenNursing home ombudsmen serve as advocates for adults in long-term care facilities. They can address concerns an elder or their loved ones may have, investigate a nursing home for signs of neglect, and help victims take legal action if needed.
  • Social Service Workers When investigating a complaint, APS may call on social service workers they are partnered with to address a victim’s health and any safety concerns.
  • A Nursing Home Abuse LawyerIf you think your loved one is the victim of elder neglect, an experienced nursing home abuse attorney can help. An attorney can pursue financial aid to help you and your family cover expenses stemming from the neglect.

Preventing Neglect

You can protect loved ones from nursing home neglect by:

  • Carefully Reviewing Nursing Home Facilities Before sending your loved one to live in a nursing home, make sure the facility is properly staffed and is well-maintained. You may want to speak to other residents or their families and see how they like living at the facility.
  • Regularly Contacting Loved Ones Frequently visiting loved ones in nursing homes may make it easier to see signs of poor care. If frequent visits are not possible, keeping in touch through phone calls or other methods is helpful.
  • Watching for Signs of Neglect or Abuse Simply being aware of the warning signs of nursing home abuse and neglect is key to addressing problems early on.
  • Believing Loved Ones Never dismiss an older adult who complains of neglect — look into it. Not taking a resident’s complaints seriously may discourage them from speaking up in the future.

If a loved one has been neglected, it’s key to consider legal action. Filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit can help you pursue justice and potentially deter future neglect. A successful lawsuit also provides financial compensation for your loved one’s injuries.

Compensation from a lawsuit can cover:

  • Costs of medical treatment
  • Mental health therapy
  • Other expenses

No one should have to suffer from poor treatment during their most vulnerable years. If your loved one was the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, we can help.

Get a free case review today to see if you or your loved one may be entitled to compensation.

FAQs About Nursing Home Neglect

How common is elder neglect?

Nursing home neglect is all too common. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, 15.3% of elder abuse complaints are for neglect. And in a 2020 survey from the World Health Organization (WHO), 12% of nursing home employees admitted to neglecting residents.

Finally, only 5% of respondents had never experienced or witnessed neglect in one study of 2,000 nursing home residents.

Sadly, caregiver neglect is one of the most underreported forms of elder abuse, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). For every one case that is reported, 57 go unreported.

Who is legally liable for nursing home neglect?

Who will be liable for nursing home neglect can vary in each case. In the past, nursing home staff members, on-site doctors or nurses, and even entire facilities have been held accountable.

Law enforcement, elder advocacy groups, and nursing home abuse law firms can help you figure out who is legally responsible for neglecting your loved one. From there, you can determine what actions to take.

What constitutes neglect in a care home?

Nursing home neglect can come in many forms. If your loved one is suffering from issues like pressure sores/ulcers or weight loss, often wears dirty clothes, or seems to be constantly hungry or thirsty, they may be suffering from nursing home neglect.

Those are just a few possible signs that nursing home neglect is occurring. If you believe your loved one is not receiving the care they need, don’t wait: Report it to authorities.

How can I report a nursing home for neglect?

You have plenty of options to report a nursing home for neglect.

Always dial 911 if you or a loved one is having a medical emergency. You can also report nursing home neglect to local ombudsmen, social workers, or an attorney.

Are there time limits to report nursing home neglect?

Yes. If you wait too long to report a possible case of nursing home neglect, authorities may not be able to help you. For example, statutes of limitations prevent you from taking legal action for nursing home abuse and neglect if too much time has passed.

To avoid these types of issues, make sure to report nursing home neglect as soon as possible to authorities — as well as a nursing home abuse lawyer.

Nursing Home Abuse Support Team

The Nursing Home Abuse Center (NHAC) was founded to bring justice to those affected by nursing home and elder abuse. Our mission is to educate and empower victims of abuse and their families to take a stand against this unlawful mistreatment. We work to return dignity back to those who have been broken down by nursing home abuse and neglect.

View 6 Sources
  1. Blanchard, S. (2016, February 18). 6 Signs of Nursing Home Neglect. Retrieved November 19, 2019, from https://www.nextavenue.org/6-signs-of-nursing-home-neglect/
  2. Goguen, D. (n.d.). Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Law: Basics: How to identify the signs of elder abuse in a nursing home or other care facility, and what to do about it. Retrieved November 19, 2019, from https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/nursing-home-abuse-neglect-basics.html
  3. National Center on Elder Abuse. (2012). Abuse of Residents of Long Term Care Facilities. Retrieved November 19, 2019, from https://ncea.acl.gov/NCEA/media/docs/Abuse-of-Residents-of-Long-Term-Care-Facilities-(2012)_1.pdf
  4. Reeves, R. J. (n.d.). Nursing Home Negligence. Retrieved November 19, 2019, from https://www.hg.org/legal-articles/nursing-home-negligence-30248
  5. Silver-Greenberg, J., & Harris, A. (2020, June 21). 'They just dumped him like trash': Nursing homes evict vulnerable residents. Retrieved December 22, 2021, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/21/business/nursing-homes-evictions-discharges-coronavirus.html
  6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2019, April 26). Trends in Deficiencies at Nursing Homes Show That Improvements Are Needed To Ensure the Health and Safety of Residents. Retrieved November 19, 2019, from https://oig.hhs.gov/oas/reports/region9/91802010.asp
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