Published On: Tue, Feb 24th, 2015

Stopping Nursing Home Neglect

The median age of the population in the United States is increasing. 13.5% of the population is currently over 65. This is projected to increase to 20% of the population by the year 2050. With the aging population, the number of cases of elderly abuse and neglect is growing. It’s estimated that 7.6% to 10% of the elderly experience abuse each year. This growing trend is causing state legislators to take action.

A representative in Missouri recently filed a bill that will allow families of nursing home residents to place hidden cameras in their loved ones rooms. This lawmaker,  Rep. Andrew McDaniel, was quoted saying, “You probably hear the horror stories of people following grandma and stuff like that – we don’t want that,” McDaniel says. “We want them people taken care of and hopefully we’ll get rid of them type of people. Other health-care workers, they’re doing their job, they have nothing to worry about.”

 photo paffairs_sanfrancisco

photo paffairs_sanfrancisco

Lawmakers around the country have submitted proposed similar legislation in response to the rise in nursing home abuse. Representatives in Texas and North Carolina are deliberating bills that increase the penalties imposed on facilities and workers responsible for abuse. Despite increasing efforts by the state to improve the care provided by nursing facilities, it’s still important for families to remain diligent in recognizing and reporting abuse.

Signs of Abuse in Nursing Homes

Bed Sores/Pressure Sore – This is one of the most common signs of neglect. Causes of pressure sores include prolonged pressure on the skin, excessive friction, and skin shear. Workers should not allow residents to remain in the same positions in bed or a wheelchair for extended periods of time. This lack of movement restricts blood flow and prevents skin from receiving the oxygen and nutrients that it needs to remain healthy. If this continues for extended periods of time, necrosis occurs, causing painful, open sores that are prone to life-threatening infection.

DFID—UK Dept. or International Development from Flickr Creative Commons.

DFID—UK Dept. or International Development from Flickr Creative Commons.

Excessive friction and skin shear are often caused when workers fail to exercise care when rotating residents in bed or when moving them into or out of a wheelchair. This rough treatment can damage the capillaries responsible for delivering the nutrients that skin needs, leading to the same problems that prolonged pressure causes.

Excessive or Unexplained Bruising – Bruises are caused by damage to the blood vessels immediately under the skin. As skin becomes thinner with age, there is less protection for these vessels and they become damaged more easily. This can cause bruises to form even from minor bumps. Bruising doesn’t always indicate abuse; however, excessive unexplained bruising is not normal.

Excessive bruising is a sign of neglect or outright abuse. Nursing homes should be vigilant about preventing falls. Decreased mobility in aging can make it difficult to get out of bed, rise from a seated position, or move from one location to the other. Even a small stumble can lead to a catastrophic fall. Nursing homes that fail to prevent these falls are not doing their jobs.

Outright abuse is a cause of bruising as well. If unexplained bruising is coupled with negative emotional changes in your loved one or the hesitancy or unwillingness of the facility to allow you to visit with your family member unattended, be very weary of abuse. This is not normal whatsoever.

Sudden Emotional Changes – Some change to an individual’s emotions is not unusual as they age; however, this change rarely occurs suddenly. A sudden emotional change is a sign of a traumatic event that your loved one may be hesitant to discuss. These changes can be caused by verbal abuse by caregivers, failure of the facility to provide social interaction, and other types of neglect including improper nutrition or lack of hygiene.

If your loved one insists that there’s no problem, watch closely for other warning signs. Nutrition issues will present themselves in sudden weight loss. Hygiene issues will be evident by bedsores or unpleasant smells. Fear of a caregiver or the facility refusing to give you privacy with your loved one is a sign of verbal abuse.

What To Do If You Suspect Abuse

State lawmakers are putting forth effort to prevent abuse; however, the family should always be diligent. Even if states are able to pass legislation that place stringent requirements on nursing care facilities and impose heavy penalties on offenders, abuse and neglect will never be completely eliminated.

If a loved one is in immediate danger, call 911. Do not treat the situation any different that any other emergency. If you suspect abuse or neglect, but it is not an emergency situation, contact the Adult Protective Services agency in your state.

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About the Author

- Adam Lee is a financial writer who has insightful knowledge in dealing with different financial issues. He tries to help people to get out of difficult financial situations by contributing financial write ups to websites and blogs such as Moneyforlunch.com and Moneynewsnow.com

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