What Is Nursing Home Neglect?
Nursing home neglect is a type of elder abuse committed against older adults in assisted living facilities. It involves the substandard care of a resident, or a breach of duty that harms a resident.
Elder Neglect vs Elder Abuse
The NCEA categorizes elder neglect as a type of elder abuse. Elder abuse is the mistreatment of older adults by those in a position of trust. While many types of elder abuse involve direct harm to the victim, neglect causes harm through substandard care or a failure to perform caregiving duties.
Elder neglect can take many forms, including:
- Abandonment: This occurs when someone who is responsible for an elder’s care deserts them, often leaving them in a public place, a nursing facility, or a hospital.
- Nursing home neglect: Nursing home neglect is the failure of staff and other responsible individuals to provide adequate care to elderly residents.
- Self-neglect: This occurs when an older adult loses the ability to perform adequate self-care but does not get assistance or refuses care.
Although neglect is not as violent as some forms of nursing home abuse, it can be just as harmful to the physical and psychological health of older adults.
Victims of nursing home neglect can take legal action.
Contact our team right now to learn how you might be able to access financial aid and hold negligent facilities accountable.
Quick Facts About Nursing Home Neglect
- In one study of 2,000 nursing home residents, only 5% of respondents had never experienced or witnessed neglect.
- According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, 15.3% of elder abuse complaints are for neglect.
- In a 2020 survey from the World Health Organization (WHO), 12% of nursing home employees admitted to neglecting residents within the past year.
- 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.
Types of Nursing Home Neglect
Neglect can involve a caretaker’s failure to provide various types of care to an older adult, which often falls into four general categories.
There are 4 main types of nursing home neglect:
- Medical neglect: This may occur when nursing home staff members fail to properly attend to or prevent a resident’s medical concerns. This may result in inadequate diabetic care, bedsores, infections, mobility issues, and other problems.
- Neglect of basic needs: This type of neglect is the failure of a nursing home to provide a resident with enough food, water, or a clean, safe environment.
- Neglect of personal hygiene: This can be described as the failure of a nursing facility to properly help a resident with dental care, laundry, and bathing.
- Social or emotional neglect: This may involve ignoring a nursing home resident, leaving them alone, or failing to provide them with enough social and emotional care.
Neglect may stem from or lead to many issues, like:
Causes of Elder Neglect in Nursing Homes
2018 federal data found that most U.S. assisted living facilities are understaffed — a central cause of nursing home negligence. However, other staffing problems may also contribute to neglect.
The main causes of nursing home neglect are:
- Understaffing: When a nursing facility does not have enough staff, the employees they do have are overburdened. This may lead to increased stress, exhaustion, and a lack of time to properly care for all nursing home residents.
- Negligent hiring: This involves hiring caretakers who, based on their criminal backgrounds or actions during past employment, are at high risk of mistreating or neglecting vulnerable older adults. Nursing homes should follow a thorough screening process to check an applicant’s criminal background and certifications.
- Inadequate training: Caretakers 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 frail elderly residents or residents with mobility issues, and make other mistakes leading to inadequate care.
Warning Signs of Nursing Home Neglect
Those concerned about a nursing home’s quality of care can look for red flags that may indicate neglect.
Common signs of nursing home neglect include:
Poor Resident Hygiene
Many elderly people need help with personal care, such as brushing their teeth, bathing, and doing their hair. Nursing homes without enough staff members often fail to keep residents clean and healthy.
Unsanitary Living Conditions
A nursing home should provide clean clothing, bedding, rooms, and living areas. In addition, facilities should be free from pests and mold. Make sure your loved one’s room, clothes, and the nursing home, in general, are clean.
Signs of Inadequate Nutrition
Many residents in neglectful nursing homes suffer from malnutrition and dehydration because they are not receiving enough food and water. Loved ones should look for signs of malnutrition such as tiredness or irritability, complaints of being cold, hair loss, and papery skin.
Loss or Lack of Mobility
Good nursing homes have programs and policies to keep residents as mobile as possible. Keeping active helps residents retain muscle mass and mobility. Neglectful nursing homes often have residents who have lost most or all mobility because they are left sitting or in bed for long periods.
Poorly equipped facilities are less likely to catch, report, or prevent nursing home negligence, leading to an increase in injuries among residents. Furthermore, if neglectful staff members do not aid them in time, residents may eventually attempt to help themselves, leading to more falls and other serious injuries.
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 depression, and some residents may distance themselves from friends and family members as a result.
What To Do About Nursing Home Neglect
A data brief released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) suggests that nursing home neglect is unfortunately common. From 2013-2017, 31% of nursing homes were cited for a specific quality of care issue at least 5 times.
However, steps can be taken to help prevent or end the neglect of nursing home residents.
Help protect loved ones from nursing home neglect by:
- Carefully reviewing nursing home facilities: Anyone considering a nursing home for a loved one should look for signs of poor nursing home care, such as understaffing and unsanitary living conditions. They should also be aware that price, appearance, and online ratings may not guarantee the quality of care.
- Regularly contacting loved ones: Frequently visiting loved ones in nursing homes may make it easier to see signs of poor care, such as inadequate hygiene and malnutrition, and to gauge their mood for signs of something amiss. If frequent visits are not possible, keeping in touch through phone calls or other methods is still 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. Refusing to listen to a loved one may discourage them from opening up about potential future problems.
If a loved one does become the victim of nursing home negligence, take action immediately.
Neglect may be a sign of other forms of abuse. It can also have serious consequences for the victim, including depression, permanent disability, or even death.
If a loved one is the victim of nursing home neglect, contact:
- Local law enforcement: If a nursing home resident is in immediate physical danger, or in danger of developing serious health issues, call the local police or paramedics. They can remove a resident from a neglectful nursing home and deliver them to a safe location. If the nursing home or care staff has broken any laws, the police will conduct a criminal investigation.
- A local long-term care ombudsman: A local ombudsman is a good option in cases where nursing home neglect may be less serious or obvious. Ombudsmen serve as advocates for adults in long-term care facilities. They will 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.
- Adult Protective Services (APS): A state’s APS office will generally be in charge of investigating non-urgent complaints of nursing home neglect and determining how serious the case is.
- Social service workers: When investigating a complaint, APS will call on social service workers they are partnered with to address a victim’s health and any safety concerns.
- A nursing home abuse lawyer: If you suspect that your loved one is the victim of elder abuse or neglect, an experienced nursing home abuse attorney can help. They can give guidance on how to respond in a case of neglect and make sure that the resident’s well-being and legal rights are protected.
Who Is Legally Liable for Nursing Home Neglect?
Who will be legally 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 for neglect.
Law enforcement, elder advocacy groups, and nursing home abuse law firms can help you determine who is legally responsible for neglecting your loved one. From there, you can determine what actions to take.
Legal Help To End Nursing Home Neglect
When someone you love has suffered from nursing home neglect, it’s important to take legal action. Filing a nursing home abuse or neglect lawsuit can help you take justice against those responsible for harming your loved one and help ensure others won’t have to suffer.
A successful nursing home abuse lawsuit provides financial compensation for your loved one’s injuries that can help pay for treatments and other costs.
Compensation from a lawsuit can cover:
- Medical bills
- Mental health therapy
- Other expenses
Nobody 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.