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Safety at the Nursing Home

What to look for below the surface

Many nursing home residents have limited abilities to communicate, therefore identifying potential abuse requires careful monitoring. Look for the signs of nursing home abuse in your frequent visits to the nursing home or assisted living facility.

  • What are some signs that nursing home abuse is occurring?
    It is always important to determine if a resident is receiving proper care. Weight loss, bruises or welts, frequent swelling, dehydration, bedsores, or soiled clothing or bed sheets are clues that abuse is occurring. Also, the resident may appear withdrawn, fearful, or depressed. Regardless of the resident’s mental condition, i.e. suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia, listen to the resident and look for evidence. Often, doctors and nurses who are busy attending to many residents at once overlook physical as well as emotional signs of abuse.
  • How can abuse be prevented for those who currently live in a long-term care facility?
    The most effective prevention is to combine strategies to ensure a resident’s proper care. Under the Nursing Home Reform Act, an assessment of the resident’s interests, personality, and health care needs are used to develop a care plan that determines not only how the resident will be cared for but also who will carry out the various tasks. State and federal legislation requires documentation of these care plans, and you can monitor the plan and make sure it is being followed. Check records regularly, maintain contact with nurses and doctors, and participate in care plan meetings. Help the resident stay connected with family, friends, and other residents as much as possible, as social isolation increases the risks of abuse. Also, monitor any new employees who become responsible for the resident’s care. Ask to see their credentials and inquire of their background.

To learn more about prevention strategies, or the Nursing Home Reform Act, visit the National Center on Elder Abuse at www.elderabusecenter.org

  • Are there other forms of nursing home abuse?
    Yes. Other forms of abuse can include the misappropriation or theft of a resident’s funds or property, restriction of private phone calls or visits from family members and friends, restriction of visits from any state or local representative, noncompliance with the resident’s decision to allow or not allow visits, preventing the resident from moving or changing facilities (if the resident is not mentally capable of such a decision, the immediate family can intervene), restriction of a resident’s religious observations, and the unlawful eviction of a resident — federal law requires that all care facilities provide a 30-day written notice and must document a legal reason for discharge such as failure to pay rent, inability to provide specific medical treatment, etc.

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