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How to recognize the signs of neglect in a nursing home

In most light-hearted movies involving sons or daughters and their elderly parents, a common phrase is said, "Don't put me in a home." We often laugh off this phrase because we associate it with the idea that putting our parents in a nursing home means that we don't care about them, which is likely not true in most cases.

But in the real world, this phrase may be uttered out of a very real concern for the level of care provided in some nursing homes. While many facilities pride themselves in providing top-notch care day in and day out, reports do surface from time to time regarding facilities where this isn't always the case. In some cases, instances of neglect have been documented. In others, reports have indicated more extreme situations of abuse.

Though instances of abuse do occur, they may be rarer than instances of neglect. So how do we protect our loved ones? How do we recognize signs of neglect in a nursing home? By asking these questions:

Are there any signs of medical neglect? When you hear about cases of patients with bed sores, untreated infections, or failures to give patients their medicine, you are hearing about medical neglect. This can happen in any nursing home, whether it's here in Maryland or elsewhere in the nation, and it can mean anything from mild injuries to more escalated cases where an error results in the death of a patient.

Are there signs of personal hygiene neglect? Signs for this can range from poor grooming and the absence of regular bathing to failures to change clothing regularly. Because poor hygiene can lead to serious health conditions, it's important to spot this form of neglect right away.

Are there signs of basic-needs neglect? If you suspect that your loved one isn't receiving proper nutrition and hydration, then you may have a case for basic-needs neglect. Even failing to provide a clean and safe environment could constitute neglect, which is grounds for civil action.

Are there signs of emotional neglect? Perhaps the most difficult to spot, emotional neglect can lead to depression and withdrawal. Too many unfriendly interactions with staff members could lead to other behavioral changes as well, including aggression and emotional detachment. Emotional neglect is oftentimes considered just as bad as physical neglect and should be addressed as soon as possible.

Source: The Nursing Home Abuse Center, "Nursing Home Neglect," Accessed Aug. 27, 2015

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