You have a loved one in a nursing home facility. You recently noticed some bruises on the family member, and she seems dehydrated.
Are these signs of “neglect?” What does neglect in a nursing home case actually even mean?
Nursing home neglect is when someone at a nursing home facility (for example, an administrator or staff member), places a nursing home resident in a situation that endangers his/her health or safety.
Examples of neglect cases include:
- failing to change a resident’s bedding on a regular basis,
- not calling a doctor or nurse when medical treatment is required, and
- refusing to give a resident adequate food or water.
Warning signs of nursing home neglect include:
- weight loss,
- broken bones,
- personal hygiene issues, and
- unexplained injuries.1
1. What is the definition of nursing home neglect?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nursing home neglect is the failure to meet an older adult’s basic needs. These needs include:
- personal hygiene, and
- medical care.2
Someone in a nursing home commits neglect when:
- he/she does not provide an elderly resident with adequate care, and
- as a result, the resident’s health and safety is placed in danger.
Example: Carol is a nursing assistant who works at an assisted living facility. She is responsible for changing the clothes and bedding of residents when they soil themselves. She frequently puts this off, and as a result, some residents sit in their own urine or feces for hours or even days. Some residents develop bedsores and ulcers.
Carol’s actions, or inactions, would likely amount to neglect.
Note that any of the following people could be guilty of committing neglect:
- nursing home staff members,
- medical care providers/caregivers working in a nursing home (for example, nurses or doctors),
- administrators at a nursing facility, and
- nursing home supervisors
Note, too, that nursing home neglect is a type of nursing home abuse. Elder abuse and nursing home abuse cases do not always require some type of:
- physical abuse,
- direct physical harm, or
- sexual abuse.
2. Are there different types of abuse and neglect?
In general, there are four different types of nursing home neglect. These are:
- medical neglect – when a nursing home care provider does not provide adequate medical care or health care (for example, not reporting an illness to a nurse or doctor for proper medical treatment),
- social and emotional abuse/neglect – when staff members do not allow elderly people to interact with one another (for example, failing to provide an immobile resident with a walker),
- neglect of basic needs – when a nursing home does not provide residents with enough food and/or water, or a clean and safe environment, and
- neglect of personal hygiene – when a home fails to properly address a resident’s personal hygiene (for example, not regularly changing a resident’s clothing).3
3. What are the causes and consequences?
The general causes of nursing home neglect and mistreatment include:
- understaffing or inadequate staffing,
- nursing home negligence in a facility’s hiring practices, and
- improper training.4
The specific consequences of nursing home neglect can vary widely. Some examples include:
- dirty or unsanitary appearance,
- pressure soars or pressure ulcers,
- untreated medical or dental issues,
- diminished quality of life
- insomnia, and
- depression and fear.5
4. What can you do?
Perhaps your most immediate action to take with a neglect case is to report it.
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), you should report an instance of neglect to:
- the police,
- a doctor,
- a family member or friend,
- the nursing home facility,
- the Adult Protective Services program in your area, and
- a long-term care ombudsman.
Note that if a report of neglecting an older adult is made to the police, a prosecutor could later charge the person accused of neglect with a crime.
Once you report a case, you should also contact a law firm or nursing home abuse attorney. You might have the option of filing a civil lawsuit for the neglect that took place.
Older people experiencing neglect can file a lawsuit to recover any damages they incurred because of the neglect (for example, compensation for medical expenses).