How To Prevent Nursing Home Abuse

As of November 2023, there were 15,823 nursing home residents in South Carolina. An estimated 30 million Americans will need this type of care by 2050. Unfortunately, elder abuse affects up to five million Americans annually, with only a small percentage of the offenses reported to the appropriate authorities. Helping prevent elder abuse begins with you, and our experienced Moncks Corner nursing home abuse lawyers at West Law Firm can help.

Preventing Elder Abuse

When our older family members depend on nursing home facilities for their care and basic needs, they, their family members, or legal guardians have the right to expect high-quality service. Elder abuse can take many forms, including but not limited to:

  • Physical abuse: Slapping, hitting, or other forms of assault can produce cuts, bruises, and broken bones. Physical abuse is often the easiest to spot due to visible injuries.
  • Neglect: Nursing home residents might not receive enough food or water, necessary assistance with basic hygiene, or prompt medical attention. Those with limited mobility need regular repositioning to avoid developing bedsores.
  • Sexual abuse: The elderly may be physically unable to fight back against unwanted sexual advances. This vulnerability, unfortunately, can attract predators.
  • Financial exploitation: Financial abuse may take the form of making unauthorized purchases on a resident’s credit cards or convincing them to give money to their abuser.
  • Psychological and emotional abuse: Abusers may yell at nursing home patients, threaten them, or keep them isolated.

Choosing the Right Nursing Home

There are nearly 200 nursing homes in South Carolina. Choosing the facility that best meets the prospective resident’s needs takes time and research. Needs differ widely based on mobility issues, mental state and capacity, desired activities, and personal preferences.

Asking doctors, family members, and friends for recommendations is an advisable first step. You’ll need to consider the costs, as your budget may place some facilities out of reach. Check Medicaid, Medicare, and other programs that can provide financial assistance.

Avoid facilities with citations for abuse by checking reviews and ratings. Ratings should highlight the best facilities in your area.

After narrowing down your choices, visit the facilities on your shortlist. Look for cleanliness, a high staff-to-patient ratio, good room size and amenities, resident appearance (physical and degree of satisfaction), available activities, and dining options. One key in preventing elder abuse is viewing the interactions between residents and staff.

Interview management and gauge their sincerity, personality, and knowledge. While a single visit won’t give you a complete picture, this glimpse can help you eliminate undesirable options and guide you toward the right location.

Is Poor Management to Blame?

When you think about how to prevent elder abuse, you may wonder if a facility’s poor management is to blame.

Management is as responsible for abuse as caregivers.

Nursing home management, staff, and caregivers should uphold a high standard of care as defined by the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Failing to meet that standard can harm residents and result in legal action against those responsible.

Management should be proactive in preventing elder abuse by being aware of and overseeing everything that happens in a facility and providing stellar care. However, many facilities lack sufficient staff, which increases the likelihood of caregiver burnout and patient neglect.

Residents’ Rights

South Carolina laws give nursing home residents or legal guardians many rights, including the following:

  • Actively participate in care/treatment coordination and changes
  • Select an attending physician
  • Receive advance notice about upcoming care or treatment changes that could affect the resident’s well-being
  • Opt out of experimental research studies
  • Expect physicians to provide complete and current information using understandable language regarding the resident’s medical condition, diagnosis, and prognosis

If you suspect a violation of these rights, immediately take your concerns to administrators as the first step in preventing elder abuse. If you don’t get a satisfactory response, contact West Law Firm.

Elder Abuse Risk Factors

Some conditions put specific individuals at a higher risk of experiencing nursing home abuse. These include physical health issues, mental illness, cognitive impairments, a history of substance abuse, and past trauma.

Residents who rarely have visitors may also be at higher risk because there’s less opportunity for someone to notice the signs. Others may routinely complain about various things, making it easier to dismiss valid reports of abuse.

Abused residents may not be aware of the problem or know what to do about them. You may need to advocate for their rights on their behalf.

Institutional Risk Factors

There are often indicators that nursing homes don’t take preventing elder abuse seriously. Aside from ratings and reviews, these signs might be dirty floors, unpleasant odors that persist, too few skilled caregivers, no common areas, and subpar food.

Poorly trained staff is also a warning sign. If you are uncomfortable visiting a facility, it’s likely not a good place for your loved one.

Common Signs of Elder Abuse

Knowing the signs that indicate abuse can help you prevent it from continuing. Remember that residents may not tell you about abuse themselves. Look for such things as the following:

  • Hair loss or sudden weight loss
  • Open wounds or bed sores
  • Unexplained bleeding, bruises, or other kinds of injuries
  • Behavioral or personality changes
  • Unkempt appearance, including clothing

The resident’s bed, furniture, and bathroom should be clean. If they aren’t, the facility’s staff may neglect other vital needs.

Some of the top complaints among nursing home residents are poor sleep quality, slow staff response, missing belongings, unappetizing food, and social isolation. These issues may indicate a deeper underlying problem.

Trust Your Gut

When your loved one can no longer care for themselves, preventing elder abuse is up to you. You must look out for your loved one’s well-being. Trust your gut if you notice anything unusual that makes you suspect abuse. Asking the resident about it may not give you a definitive answer, but there are a few things you can do to investigate.

Make unscheduled visits at various times of the day; you may catch abuse happening. Routinely make video calls to your loved one and pay close attention to their behavior and appearance. Ask others if they notice any signs of abuse. Question nurses and aides, and document everything.

If you are uncomfortable taking your concerns to facility administrators or reporting abuse to the appropriate authorities, West Law Firm can do it for you.

Contact an Experienced Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

Nursing home abuse is a sensitive subject, often making family members feel responsible for not noticing it sooner.

Preventing elder abuse isn’t always possible, but you can and should hold guilty parties accountable for their actions.

If you suspect nursing home abuse, contact West Law Firm to request a free consultation. Our compassionate attorneys will tell you how we can help.

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