In a nursing home setting, your loved one may or may not tell you they are in danger or distress. Even if they can verbalize what they are going through, they may be afraid or think their family will not believe them. In every case, the family has to decide when they need to contact an attorney.
In some cases, you only learn that you need to hire a lawyer when your loved one has suffered an injury. You can act before that point if you can spot the signs. Here is what you should look for at a nursing home and when you should consider calling an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer.
It Falls on the Family to Spot Signs of Abuse
You should always look for mistreatment when speaking or visiting with your loved one. Nursing home regulations guarantee your loved one the right to be free from all types of abuse. Of course, physical abuse is the type of mistreatment that is the easiest to spot. Nursing home neglect is another form of abuse. Both are illegal and are grounds for a lawsuit.
If you can file a lawsuit before your loved one suffers a severe injury, it is because you noticed signs of mistreatment. To file a lawsuit, your family member will need to have suffered some sort of injury. Either they have suffered physical harm from abuse, or their health has suffered from neglect. In any event, the nursing home must pay for its harm to your loved one.
The Signs Can Be Physical or Something Around Your Loved One
The signs that you need an attorney can be physical signs on your loved one’s body, or you may see them in the nursing home environment. Not only should you pay close attention to how your family member looks physically, but you should also keep your eyes and ears open around the nursing home.
Bruises or Broken Bones
Unexplained bruises or broken bones are signs of physical abuse. While seniors may develop bruises because their bodies are more brittle, you can tell the difference between those and marks from abuse.
If your loved one suffers any injury resulting in a bruise, the nursing home should have documented it and told you. They may not inform you of a bruise caused by abuse because the staff member will certainly not report themselves, and the nursing home will not want to make themselves liable. The nursing home may try to blame the injury on a fall when they know the real truth.
Your Loved One Appears Continuously Drugged
Another type of physical abuse that you should be aware of is chemical restraint. If your loved one appears out of it more often than not and is different from their normal condition, it may be a sign that the nursing home is drugging them. Rather than deal with difficult residents that require more work, facilities may legally administer antipsychotic drugs to control them.
Nursing home staff may make other errors with medications that can be considered neglect instead of outright abuse. They may overmedicate your loved one not because they want to control them but because they are simply being careless. Their staff may not track your loved one’s medications to the point where it puts your loved one in physical danger.
Be Aware of Poor and Unsanitary Conditions
The conditions in the nursing home may tell you everything you need to know about your loved one’s situation. When you notice that your loved one either shows signs of abuse or neglect, you should look around during your nursing home visit. If you see signs of filth or negligence of other residents, it is a surefire sign the issues are systemic throughout the nursing home. Nursing homes do not have to be immaculate, but they must be sanitary and comply with infection control rules.
Unsanitary conditions can pose a grave risk to your loved one. An infection is one of the most common causes of death in a nursing home. Your loved one may also be breathing in dust and mold, which can cause respiratory illness.
Bacteria and other filth raise the risk that your family member may develop a dangerous condition, such as a urinary tract infection. A dirty and unkempt environment is a sign that many other things may be wrong. Nursing homes cannot properly care for their residents when unclean conditions surround them.
Pay Attention to How Your Loved One Looks
In addition to the general conditions in the facility, you should also pay very close attention to your loved one’s appearance. There are several signs that the nursing home is not just giving them the care that they legally deserve but can be placing their lives in danger with illegal neglect.
Here are indicators of nursing home neglect (which is also a form of abuse) that should cause you to contact a nursing home abuse lawyer:
- Rapid weight loss – Malnutrition makes your loved one far more susceptible to broken bones. It also raises the risk of other health problems because your loved one is not receiving the necessary nutrients. Nursing homes have a legal obligation to properly feed your loved one.
- Lack of hygiene – When your loved one appears dirty, it should be cause for alarm. They are at risk of developing an infection. Improper hygiene is also a sign that your loved one’s care may be inadequate. It should undoubtedly prompt you to ask more questions about the nursing home and contact an attorney if necessary. Continuously soiled clothes or bed sheets are leading causes of infections.
- Frequent infections – While some residents may be more susceptible to infections as their health condition deteriorates, continuous infections in the same or different body parts may indicate poor care.
- Bed sores – Do not let the name fool you. Bed sores can kill your loved one. When the nursing home does not shift your family member’s position often enough, bony parts of their body are subject to continuous pressure. These body parts may then develop small sores that can grow into open and gaping infections without the proper care. Bed sores should not happen on their own. If they do, the nursing home should adequately care for them to prevent them from getting much more severe.
Signs of Abuse Can Appear in Your Loved One’s Behavior
Your loved one’s behavior may also indicate something is wrong in the nursing home. Even if your family member cannot properly articulate their circumstances, their demeanor can show you something is amiss.
Nursing home residents who are not entirely verbal, or cannot thoroughly explain their thoughts, may give you clues about what is happening to them through their behavior.
Here are some signs of distress in your loved one:
- Your loved one, who was previously verbal, has now gone catatonic or close to it
- Your loved one appears far more agitated than they had in the past
- A particular nursing home staff member causes your family member to exhibit extreme fear
- Your loved one’s eating or sleeping habits suddenly change
Mistreatment Can Cause Health to Decline
Poor treatment can affect a senior’s physical health. For example, they may suffer physical distress due to emotional abuse because they are in a very vulnerable state. It does not take much to cause someone already in tenuous health to suffer physical symptoms due to emotional maltreatment.
You Should Ask Questions or Have Someone Ask Them for You
At the very minimum, these signs should cause you to ask questions from the nursing home. However, the facility’s staff may not listen to you or be responsive to your concerns. They may see a family member and go into cover-up mode or just be naturally resistant. Taking better care of your loved one may cost the nursing home money because they may have to hire additional personnel.
Some nursing homes simply care about the profits and view staff as an expense. As a result, they continue to neglect residents, even after family members complain. Sometimes, it takes a lawsuit or a government enforcement action to get the point home to a facility. Even then, they may still continue their poor treatment of seniors.
Dealing with abuse allegations will force them to report the concerns to the relevant authorities immediately. They may need to fire staff members when they have trouble hiring new ones. Regardless, your reports are certainly inconvenient for them and are something that they will try to stonewall.
Nursing Homes May Respond More Quickly and Respectfully to a Lawyer
Nursing homes find it easy to ignore families. They assume that you do not know the law. When you can quote regulations to the nursing home and explain to staff how they are violating these rules, the facility will stand up and take notice. However, you may not have the knowledge to have this conversation.
You may get the run-around from the nursing home when you raise concerns about your loved one’s care. Nursing homes are not always in the habit of listening to families’ concerns and usually think about things through their own interests and perspective. When you try to raise issues with the nursing home, their first thought may be to protect themselves legally.
You Should be Suspicious When a Story Does Not Make Sense
Even if the nursing home gives you answers, you should not take what a nursing home says at face value. They will certainly not admit that they have acted illegally or have harmed your family member. If the answer to a question just does not seem right, you should immediately contact a personal injury lawyer who will give you their opinion. They may take over dealing with the nursing home to be an even more effective advocate for your loved one.
You should preserve any evidence that causes you to be concerned. One of the first things that a nursing home abuse lawyer will ask for is any documentation or proof that you may have. These will help your attorney as they investigate your loved one’s circumstances and potentially prepare for a lawsuit. You should preserve this evidence and give it to your lawyer as soon as you hire them.
When your nursing home attorney begins to investigate potential misconduct, the facility may start to go into self-preservation mode. There is a better chance that your loved one’s care may improve when the nursing home has an attorney to fear. They know that an experienced lawyer can and will hold them accountable for what they are doing. They will be unable to hide from the consequences of their misconduct.
You Must Act as Soon as Possible
It’s up to you and your family to notice the initial signs that you may need to call a lawyer in the first place. Although you may not want to acknowledge or admit that the facility you chose is mistreating your loved one, it is critical that you make this call. Delays can put your loved one in jeopardy.
Often, you cannot depend on the facility that provides care for your loved one to just do the right thing. They have a financial bottom line to worry about, after all. You can bet the nursing home has lawyers for their defense, and your loved one should have the same protection.
If your loved one has not yet suffered a severe injury, time is of the essence to prevent the situation from worsening. If they have already suffered an injury, you should speak with a lawyer while you can still obtain evidence that can help with an abuse case. It does not cost anything for an initial consultation with a Florida injury attorney, and you will not need to pay anything unless you win a lawsuit. An attorney may tell you that the abuse or neglect that your loved one has suffered can be grounds for a lawsuit.