When our loved ones go into long-term care facilities, it can often be scary. There are many horror stories about elder abuse and neglectful care centers, and we hope that never happens to our family. It can sometimes be frustrating and disheartening to learn that your family member’s nursing home care falls short of expectations. Furthermore, unless you are there every minute of the day, it is frightening to leave them in the care of strangers.
There are many warning signs of improper care and you should be on the lookout for them. Please be aware that these are all potential signs of improper care and are not definitive. You will need some sort of proof if you believe that your loved one is experiencing neglectful or improper care.
1. Emotional or Physical Change
You must pay attention to your loved one’s actions and feelings. If they once attended activities, but suddenly have stopped or have become uncommunicative, this may be a sign. You want to pay attention to immediate and sudden changes in mood, sleep, weight, appetite, and focus. These may be indicators that your loved one is experiencing emotional abuse.
Signs of physical abuse can be unexplained bruises, skin tears, and pressure ulcers that are in unusual places. Since we become more fragile and delicate as we age, it is not uncommon to have more wear and tear on the body, but if you notice signs of physical damage in areas such as the upper back, thighs, and even hips, this may be a sign of improper care.
You also should be on the lookout for proper nutrition. Dehydration and malnourishment are common problems in long-term care facilities. The older we become, the less we want to drink or eat, as using the bathroom can be a difficult and embarrassing process. If you suspect that your loved one isn’t receiving the proper amount of food and water to keep them healthy and thriving, you want to act immediately.
2. Consistent Unanswered Questions
If you visit your family member at their facility and you ask the staff questions, but they never seem to answer them properly, you may have a problem. It is alright for staff to not know all your questions every single time you have one, but if they consistently don’t have an answer for you, or seem like they are hiding something, go with your gut feeling. You have a right to know about your loved one’s care and they should not hesitate to answer your questions.
For example, if you notice that your loved one has lost a lot of weight and want to know how that will be addressed, you expect an honest answer. If the staff member replies with something, such as, “don’t worry, it just happens to old people,” you have something to be concerned about. A generic answer should not be given when it is in response to worries about your loved one’s health.
3. Inadequate Staff
If you ring the call button does someone come to answer it within an appropriate amount of time? Even if your family member just wants more water, it is important that the call is answered within a reasonable amount of time. If an accident happens, where they slipped and fell, or were having trouble breathing, you would want the button to be responded to quickly.
Be on the lookout for reduced staff at the facility. If you notice that everyone is always busy when you need them, there’s chaos, the staff has bad attitudes, they don’t talk or mingle with the residents, or there’s just a general lack of compassion, the facility could be understaffed. You want to make sure that there are plenty of staff members to help your loved one.
You should also be on the lookout for a high staff turnover rate. If you notice that your loved one has a new staff member attending to them every time you visit, you may want to ask about it. It is important that your loved one receives consistent care. High turnover requires retraining and may affect the quality of care your loved one receives, as new caretakers may be more apt to make mistakes or be unfamiliar with your loved one’s needs.
4.Loved One’s Statements
Listen to what your loved one has to say. If you notice that they don’t want a certain person caring for them, or they complain that the staff never does anything right, it may be time to think about changing facilities. Your loved one should never feel uncomfortable around the staff members, as they are their ultimate go-to people. If they feel uncomfortable having them help with the little things, they will surely feel uncomfortable if there is ever a larger issue.
Caregivers and staff members at long-term care facilities are generally expected to help the residents with basic personal hygiene needs. This may include getting dressed, brushing teeth, clipping nails, bathing, and combing hair. If you notice that your family member hasn’t showered in days, and it’s obvious to you, it should be obvious to the staff as well.
6.Unsanitary Living Conditions
Facilities generally hire staff members to make sure that the facility stays clean at all times. Bedding should be changed on a regular basis, and if there has been a spill or an accident, it should be taken care of in a timely fashion. According to federal law, long-term care facilities must, “establish and maintain an infection control program designed to provide a safe, sanitary and comfortable environment in which residents reside.” There are also New York state requirements for the safety and security of residents that must be followed.
In determining that your family member or loved one’s long-term care facility is proper, it is important to visit the location. If you need assistance in selecting a long-term care facility for your loved one, contact the geriatric care consultants at P&P Medicaid who are experienced in long-term care facilities and know what should be expected from them. P&P Medicaid assists families with long-term care facilities in Nassau County, Suffolk County, and Queens. Additionally, P&P Medicaid specializes in Medicaid eligibility services for skilled nursing care facilities. For more information about our services or to schedule a consultation, call (516) 541-4770 or fill out our contact form.