Thursday, May 28, 2009

May 28

Nursing Home Abuse/Neglect - A Guide for Families from Lipcon & Lipcon, PA

Often, families reluctantly have to place their loved ones in Nursing Homes or Assisted Living Facilities (ALFs), in order to assure medical attention and every-day assistance that they are not able to provide for themselves. They expect, and are certainly entitled to, top quality care.

Unfortunately, there are situations where residents of these facilities are not treated properly. Many become injured, or fall into poor health, due to neglect or intentional abuse. Examples include individuals who are not well fed, not given access to their doctors, not bathed frequently, not turned or moved to avoid bedsores or ulcers, and, not given the dignity and human rights they deserve.

Florida has laws in place to ensure that the care, dignity and rights of Nursing Home and Assisted Living Facility residents are protected. Nevertheless, it has been reported that many residents have become helpless victims of Neglect & Abuse; and, the problem is on the rise. If you think your loved one has been mistreated, you can do something about it!

Below are some FAQ’s from our clients, friends and families who have loved ones or family members in a Nursing Home or ALF:

How do I select the best Nursing Home or Assisted Living Facility for my loved one?

Evaluate your needs to determine which nursing home is best suited for your particular situation. For example, do you need a facility to care for a loved one suffering from Alzheimer's? Do you need dialysis machines, or, a specialized wound care center?

Ask your physician for referrals; and, speak to others such as family, friends and neighbors who have been through a similar situation.

Contact your State and ask for copies of published information, such as Nursing Home Guides and surveys.

How do I ensure my loved one is receiving high quality care?

The most important part of ensuring care is to remain involved in your family member's life. Monitoring and observing changes in their condition is essential to ensuring they are being cared for properly.

What do I look for when checking up on my loved one?

Diet: Make sure that your family member is drinking enough water and eating well. Because nursing home CNA charting can be inaccurate, be sure to visit at mealtime to check the food, and, see if your loved one is eating. Malnutrition and dehydration can cause life threatening diseases including urinary track infections, kidney failure, and, skin breakdown that can lead to bedsores, dementia and a weakened immune system.

Weight loss: Watch closely for weight loss by your family member. Do not rely on the nursing home's stated weight, because they may try to hide weight loss. A good place to check for weight loss is the upper arm and calves.

Dehydration: To check for dehydration, you should look at skin tone and dryness in the mouth and lips, along with pinching the skin on the forehead or the sternum. If the skin sticks together and leaves a ridge, there could be a dehydration problem.

Bedsores: If your family member is immobilized in bed or in a wheel chair, they are at risk for bedsores. On visits, ask them if they have any cuts or wounds. If they are unable to answer, be sure to check their entire body on every visit. Without proper prevention and care, bedsores can appear overnight. Common areas for bedsores are on the heels, hips and buttocks. If a bedsore is allowed to develop, it will cause serious illness .. and, even death .. to your loved one.

Toilette Use: If your family member needs assistance to use the toilet, a facility with insufficient staffing will have the motivation to put him or her in diapers, because it is less work. As a consequence, it will be very difficult to become self-regulating. This will be used as an excuse to keep your loved one in the nursing home, instead of an Assisted Living Facility (ALF). Insist that your family member is taken to the toilet regularly. If he or she is starting to have accidents, complain that it is because the call light is not being answered, rather than it being an incontinence problem. Ask your family member, frequently, if he or she has any symptoms, such as burning urination, and dark, cloudy or foul smelling urine.

Confusion/ Dementia: If your family member starts showing signs of confusion and/or dementia after entering the nursing home, these symptoms are not just part of normal aging. They are, usually, caused by some type of disease; or, they can be triggered by malnutrition or dehydration. Insist that the facility and the doctor run blood tests to rule out disease, malnutrition and dehydration.

Rehabilitation & Exercise: Make sure that the facility is following through with any rehabilitation they have promised. Occasionally, you or someone else needs to be there while your family member is doing his or her exercises, in order to see if they are being effective.

Bathing & Cleanliness: Make sure that your loved one is fully bathed, at least three times a week. Your family member should not have any body odor or scaling skin. Check for proper nail and dental care.

In general, let the facility know that you are watching them; and, that you know what they are required to do. Don't be afraid to let them know that you are aware of the (Federal/State/local) regulations governing the care of your loved one.

What do I do if I encounter resistance to monitoring my loved ones care?

Report resistance to the highest level of management, at once. If you encounter any resistance at that level, you should consider moving your loved one to another facility.

What do I do if I have reason to believe my loved one is in a life-threatening situation?

Insist that the staff call an ambulance to take your family member to a hospital. If they refuse, dial 911 yourself. It is possible that your family member could die while you argue with the staff about appropriate treatment.

What are the signs of Nursing Home Neglect & Abuse?

Nursing Home neglect and/or abuse can be physical and/or verbal. Both forms are very serious, and, it is important to know the warning signs. If you notice any of the following, your loved one may be the victim of abuse:

* Any open wounds or cuts
* Unexplained injuries such as broken bones, bruises, or welts
* Reports of being slapped, pushed, shaken or beaten
* Falls
* Being physically restrained to the bed or chair
* Over-medication causing lethargy or unresponsiveness
* Weight Loss
* Sudden slurred speech
* Deprivation of food or water, for any amount of time
* Emotional upset or agitation
* Extremely withdrawn and non-communicative
* Displaying unusual behavior such as sucking, biting or rocking
* Displaying behavior that is: humiliating, insulting, frightening, threatening or ignoring towards family and friends
* Wanting to be isolated from other people
* Injuries requiring emergency treatment or hospitalization
* Any injury or death occurring during, or shortly after, an episode of wandering (including outside the facility)
* Unexplained or unexpected death
* A nursing home resident injuring another nursing home resident
* Skin discoloration or deterioration
* Burns

Warning signs often go unnoticed by loved ones or family members. Do not ignore your instincts or suspicions. Don't be afraid to ask questions and investigate. Take an active role in your loved one's care, to insure that they are receiving the attention they deserve.

Loved ones may not tell their caregivers about the abuse because:

* They may be too frightened
* They may have been threatened by the abuser
* They may think that this abuse is "normal"
* They may not even be aware that they are being abused
* They may even think that they deserve to be "punished"

What do I do if I suspect Nursing Home Neglect or Abuse?

If you believe that your loved one is suffering from abuse or neglect, TAKE ACTION IMMEDIATELY! The first thing you should do is CALL 911. In some circumstances, call the police. Then, remove your family member from the facility. Take him or her to another nursing home; or, if urgent care is required, get them to a hospital.

Lipcon & Lipcon is recognized as one of the top firms, nationally, and in the State of Florida for representing families and victims of Nursing Home and Assisted Living Facility Neglect & Abuse.

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