How to Spot Elder Neglect
The elderly need constant care and attention in order to remain healthy and safe. That is often why families may decide that an elderly loved one would do better in a retirement home that can care for them than alone in a house. Few people are able to provide their older loved ones with constant support, especially if all members of the family are working or in school. Nursing homes and retirement facilities are designed to provide round-the-clock care to their residents. However, not all staff do their jobs and not all facilities enforce proper care standards. Knowing what neglect looks like can help you keep your loved one safe and hold those who mistreated them accountable for their actions.
What Counts as Elder Neglect?
Neglect can take many forms, but primarily it is when a caretaker fails to uphold their duty. This can mean leaving a resident in bed all day, not cleaning them after they have soiled themselves, or even refusing to feed them for days on end or not feeding them nutritious meals. There are certain tasks that you would expect a staff member at a nursing home to do for your elderly loved one, such as feeding, providing medical assistance, moving, cleaning, and socializing with. If the staff fails to do any of these tasks, either because they refuse to or they forgot to, then it could be counted as elder neglect.
The Dangers of Neglect
Neglect in nursing homes is dangerous primarily because many elderly people simply cannot take care of themselves. This may because they are too weak, physically handicapped, or mentally incapable. Whatever the case may be, if someone needs help, they should get it. When an elderly person does not get the help they need, it could lead to an injury, serious illness, or even death.
For example, if a resident is too weak to get out of bed on their own, and the staff fails to help them, then that resident could develop bed sores. If these wounds are not treated, then they could become infected, leading the resident to become sick. Once the resident is sick, they may go into septic shock, which is very likely to kill them.
Neglected elderly residents could also die of exposure if they are allowed outside without supervision for too long. Older people have a harder time surviving high heats or freezing colds, which is a problem in Arizona, given that the temperatures can go from over 100 degrees during the day to below freezing at night, depending on the time of year.
Even more horrifying, however, is the fact that some neglected residents may even begin dying of thirst or starvation. In a facility where food and water are readily available, the only reason why this would ever happen is because staff members are blatantly ignoring residents and choosing not to help them. While neglected residents may never have a bruise or cut on their body, such as with physical abuse, they are certainly abused, especially when their health deteriorates as a result.
Signs and Symptoms to Watch For
Considering how dangerous neglect can be, you should always look out for it when visiting your elderly loved one. They may be unwilling to tell you themselves, potentially due to embarrassment, fear, or shame, or they may be unable to tell you due to their mental state. As such, you should not rely solely on your loved one’s account of what has been happening. Instead, look for the telltale signs of neglect. These include:
- Sudden weight loss
- Ailments and injuries that have been left untreated, such as bed sores
- Poor and unsanitary living conditions
- Poor hygiene
- A lack of proper clothing or bedding for the weather
- No heat, running water, or proper electricity in the facility
Be sure to also watch for these signs in other residents. It may be a widespread issue throughout the facility that is affecting other residents. If you believe that your loved one is being neglected, then you should immediately take them home, if possible. If that is not possible, then call the proper authorities and ask them to investigate the issue. The Arizona Long-Term Care Ombudsman’s sole purpose is to advocate for elderly residents, and it has several centers across the state that you can contact for aid.
You should not confront the staff, as they may take out their frustrations on your loved one or try to cover up their actions. Instead, after contacting the authorities, bring your loved one to a medical professional who can ensure that they are as healthy as possible.
After ensuring that your elderly loved one is safe and healthy, you should then contact an experienced Phoenix nursing home abuse lawyer. We at Breyer Law Offices, P.C. can offer you and your loved one the legal help you need both in receiving proper compensation, as well as holding the negligent nursing home liable for their abuse. When we place our loved ones in a nursing home, we do so with the trust that they will be well taken care of and happy. If a nursing home has violated and broken that trust, it must be held accountable. Call our firm at (602) 267-1280 if you want to work with some of the most dedicated and passionate attorneys in Arizona.
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Confidentially reviewed by Attorney Mark Breyer