How to Recognize the Signs of Neglect in a Nursing Home During COVID-19

How to Recognize the Signs of Neglect in a Nursing Home During COVID-19

Oftentimes in made-for-television movies involving family conflicts and coming-of-age stories, we hear an elderly parent in the story say something like “don’t put me in a home.” For the audience and the other characters, this plea is usually laughed or shrugged off because we think it means that the elder does not think their family cares about them. However, the truth behind such statements spoken in movies and the real world is that the elder is worried about being neglected or abused in a nursing home where no one can help them.

Elders in nursing homes often feel as if they have no avenues to report neglect or abuse, and this problem has only become compounded during the unprecedented times caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Family members are often barred entirely from entering nursing homes, so talking with an elder and looking for signs of neglect is extremely difficult – but it is not impossible. While COVID-19 separates you from your elderly loved ones, you can still help care for and protect them by looking for telltale signs of neglect however you can.

To begin, ask yourself a few questions regarding what you know about your loved one’s treatment:

  • Are there any signs of medical neglect? Bedsores, untreated infections, or failures to give patients their medicine are common examples of medical neglect. If you recognize any of these health issues ailing your loved one, then there could be neglect at the source. You should take signs of medical neglect seriously, as problems that seem mostly innocuous can escalate to life-threatening concerns later.
  • Are there signs of personal hygiene neglect? Poor grooming, irregular bathing schedules, and failures to change clothing each day can all be signs of personal hygiene neglect.
  • Are there signs of basic-needs neglect? If you suspect that your loved one isn't receiving proper nutrition and hydration, then the nursing home is neglecting their basic needs. 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 form of neglect 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.

Ways to Interact with Your Loved One During Quarantine

If you suspect that there are signs of any form of neglect, then you will need to look into the situation further. At this point, you might run into obstacles due to the coronavirus pandemic. Specifically, in-person meetings with your loved one are probably not possible. You will have to use other methods to interact with them and figure out what is happening.

Methods to interact with your elderly loved ones during COVID-19 quarantines can include:

  • Phone calls: You should still be allowed to call your elderly loved one as often as you want if they live in a nursing home and have their own cellphone. Visual confirmation is helpful when trying to find certain signs of abuse, but simply talking with your loved one can help you uncover problems, even if they do not say anything directly. Listen for worry in their voice when mentioning their caretaker, for example, or mentions that they have been hungry lately. Small statements like that could be the first hint that something is wrong.
  • Video conferencing: Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, video teleconferencing is easier than ever. Most smartphones have such apps installed by default, so you and your elderly loved one should have little issue finding one to use. Call them using the popular app FaceTime, for example, and make sure they speak to you while in good lighting. You can use this time to see them as they are and look for physical evidence of neglect or abuse. Unexplained bruises could be caused by harassment, and gaunt-looking appearances might indicate malnutrition or dehydration.
  • Written letters: Of course, do not forget about the age-old tradition of writing letters and sending them via the U.S. Postal Service. Your loved one's letters should be entirely confidential and not read by anyone else at the nursing home, so you can ask them if they have any complaints of abuse or neglect. Keep in mind that a nursing home might keep all mail for three or four days after it arrives to allow any traces of the coronavirus on it to become inert and noncontagious. With this said, it could take a little longer than you might expect for your loved one to reply to your inquiry.

Taking Action Once Neglect is Recognized

What can you do to protect your loved one from further neglect and abuse if you believe you have been able to confirm it through a remote method? If you think your loved one could be the victim of immediate physical injury, then you should call the authorities to intervene. Otherwise, you can call a local nursing home abuse law firm for legal assistance.

Under the guidance of an attorney, you can explore the best way to intervene and deal with the issue without complicating your case or endangering your loved one. For example, some dishonest nursing homes might try to destroy the evidence of neglect the moment they receive a complaint. An attorney can use legal tools to preserve the evidence by a court order. Once enough evidence is gathered, they can prepare a claim and pursue fair and maximized compensation on behalf of you and your loved one.

For nursing home abuse cases in Maryland, you can call on Wilson & Parlett for assistance and representation. Dial (301) 231-1737 today to learn more.

Source: The Nursing Home Abuse Center, "Nursing Home Neglect"

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