When loved ones are entrusted to the care of another, no one wants to believe that they might be in danger. Yet nursing home abuse and neglect is more prevalent than many people think. According to a recent congressional report, seniors are abused in 30 percent of nursing homes in the United States.
Officials have proposed nursing home reforms, including stricter disclosure requirements, minimum staffing limits, greater funding for inspections, and increased fines for health and safety violations. Meanwhile, it is important for family members to take action to protect their loved ones.
First, research is important. The best national source of objective information about nursing homes is the Nursing Home Compare feature on the Medicare.gov website, where nursing homes are rated in categories such as staffing, health inspections and quality measures. States may have their own information about inspections available as well.
Family members should visit a nursing home to look around and ask questions both before a loved one moves in and during his or her stay. They should not hesitate to ask questions and pay unannounced visits, and they should pay attention to things like staffing levels and cleanliness.
Family members should also watch their loved one for any warning signs of abuse or neglect, such as a change in mood or behavior, unexplained injuries, poor hygiene or a change in weight. Vigilance for the care of loved ones protects them directly, and it puts the facility’s staff on notice that there is an advocate who is monitoring their care.
Finally, if a loved one has suffered abuse or neglect, family members may wish to pursue a lawsuit, both to hold the wrongdoers accountable and to obtain compensation for the harm suffered.