You might feel as if there is nothing you can do to prevent your loved one from experiencing abuse at a nursing home. After all, you cannot be there 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To alleviate your understandable anxiety, here are eight steps you can take to stop elder abuse or neglect in a long-term care facility before it happens.
1. Be Active and Visible Right Away.
When your loved one arrives at the nursing home, insist that the staff perform a thorough assessment. Keep a copy of the report. Make sure the facility knows that you are actively involved and that you care about what happens to your older relative.
2. Create a Team and Nurture Friendships With the Staff.
Treat the staff with respect. Build relationships with those who are providing care to your relative. Communicate with staff about your loved one’s care, ask questions, and show appreciation for the care they provide your loved one. This is similar to the first step in that your visibility and active participation in your loved one’s care may help prevent nursing home abuse.
3. Pay Close Attention.
Carry a notebook in which you keep notes about your relative’s care and condition. Include essential details like dates, times, and the names of the people involved.
If you don’t already have the legal authority to review your loved one’s medical records, get the right of access and read the nursing notes, doctor’s orders, and other information. Make sure they dispense his medication on schedule, take him to therapy appointments, and follow care guidelines.
If you see anything out of order, like cuts, bruising, bedsores, or infected wounds, document it and speak up to the staff. Let your relative know that you will stand up for him.
4. Attend the Care Plan Meetings.
Show the nursing home staff that you are an active participant in your loved one’s care and that you are paying close attention to the care they receive by showing up to care planning meetings. Think of it as attending parent-teacher conferences to demonstrate active participation in a child’s schooling.
5. Be a Savvy Visitor.
There are several reasons why you should not visit at the same time every time.
- You need to observe how your relative is at different times of the day and on different days of the week.
- By changing up the days and times that you visit, you get to meet the weekday and weekend staff. You also get to see the day, evening, and night shift staff in action.
- There is power in unpredictability. If you always come to the nursing home at the same time, like clockwork, it will be easy for the staff to cover up problems. For example, if you always visit on Saturdays at 10:00 am, a neglectful nursing home staff may only bathe your relative on Saturday mornings before you arrive.
6. Stand Up for Your Loved One.
Advocate for your loved one. When a person is in a vulnerable position, she is less likely to speak up for herself. Your loved one might be afraid that unacceptable treatment will worsen if she complains about it. Put yourself in her position. If you would want someone to go to bat for you in that situation, be the one who helps. Addressing a problem early on can prevent it from escalating to the level of abuse.
7. Be the Squeaky Wheel.
Join a community action group that advocates for the rights of nursing home residents. Urge your relative to join and become active on the long-term care facility’s Resident Council. If the home does not yet have such an organization, start one. Make sure that the residents have a voice.
8. Know the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse.
Look for signs of:
- Physical abuse
- Financial exploitation
- Chemical abuse
- Improper use of restraints
Document your findings with photos and write details in your notebook, then take action.
Getting Legal Help
Despite your best efforts, there is still a chance that your relative could experience abuse at a long-term care facility. If your loved one is in danger right now, call 911. Report nursing home abuse to the authorities.
Sometimes, you can file a lawsuit for nursing home abuse. Call the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, PC at 404-474-0804, to get your free consultation to find out if your loved one might be eligible for compensation.