You never want to think that you might have to hire a lawyer to help with a possible nursing home abuse case, but unfortunately, it can happen. If you think your loved one has been a victim of abuse or neglect at their nursing home, you may need to find a nursing home lawyer. If you have a loved one living in a nursing home, familiarize yourself with some signs that could point to needing an attorney.
7 Signs You May Need to Find a Nursing Home Lawyer
#1: Lack of Information From Staff
The nursing home staff should be able to provide you with insight into your loved one’s behaviors, health, and habits, and any changes that occur in their behavior, health, and habits. If you have a question about something you’ve noticed that seems off about your loved one, the staff should be able to talk clearly about what has caused the change. If you don’t get a straight answer, something nefarious might be going on.
This isn’t to say that the staff will always have all the answers as to why something is happening, but they should be able to tell you when the change started and have documentation about the circumstances around the change. You should feel like you can work with the nursing home staff to determine what is going on with your loved one. If they refuse to provide information or seem to withhold certain relevant details, you should consult an attorney.
#2: Your Loved One Seems Withdrawn
This may be a sign of nursing home abuse or neglect, especially if your loved one is not communicative verbally but is telling you there is a problem through their withdrawal from activities, meals, or social visits. Often, withdrawal can be an indication of physical abuse, as people tend to avoid situations that might get them “in trouble” with the staff. Withdrawal can be a sign of anxiety or fear and should be further investigated.
Since withdrawal can sometimes be a symptom of an illness as well, you may want to get the opinion of your loved one’s physician to see if an underlying medical condition could be responsible for their behavior. If the physician finds that your loved one is healthy, with the exception of known medical conditions, then something in the environment is probably causing the withdrawal. A nursing home attorney can help you investigate the reasons why.
#3: Your Loved One Is Dehydrated or Malnourished
Both dehydration and malnourishment are indications that your loved one is not being properly cared for. They could also be signs of something more sinister in that the nursing home staff could be withholding water or food as punishment. Either way, if your loved one has parched lips, a dry mouth, lack of energy, dizziness, or expresses extreme thirst, they are likely dehydrated. They may also have a decreased urine output or a urinary tract infection.
Extreme weight loss is the most obvious sign of malnourishment, but before it gets to that point, your loved one may be fatigued, confused, or weak from a lack of food. The nursing home may say that your loved one is refusing to eat or drink, but unless they have proof of this, you don’t want to wait to get a lawyer involved. These conditions can lead to many other health problems, especially in older people, and even death.
#4: Fast Turnover of Staff
All jobs have some turnover, but if you’re seeing that your loved one always has new caregivers, it’s a sign that something is not right with the nursing home that is causing staff to leave. Additionally, it’s possible the new hires aren’t getting trained properly to handle the situations that arise in a nursing home, which could lead to job dissatisfaction. When people aren’t satisfied with their jobs, they usually don’t perform their duties to the best of their ability.
This is a situation that simply cannot be allowed to happen with people who are tasked with caring for other people. All caregivers need to be properly trained and satisfied with their job to ensure your loved one gets the care they need. While turnover itself may not be enough to hire a lawyer, if it’s combined with any of the other signs listed here, it’s a good idea to get a consultation so that your concerns can be investigated.
#5: Unsanitary Conditions
Nursing homes must provide the most sanitary conditions possible for their residents. This is critical because many residents have compromised immune systems that can lead to illness if they live in a place that is not cleaned well. If you’ve noticed that the bathrooms are not regularly cleaned or that soiled clothing or linens are not quickly washed, it could mean that there are too few staff members to perform all the necessary tasks.
This also means that there probably aren’t enough staff members to properly care for all the residents as well. This can lead to unsafe conditions for your loved one, especially if they’re unable to perform their own personal hygiene tasks. If you find your loved one unwashed or sitting in their own fluids, this is definitely a sign of neglect. An attorney should be involved as soon as possible to ensure the safety of your loved one and all residents.
#6: Hazards in the Living Area
As with unsanitary conditions, you want to make sure that all maintenance needs are promptly addressed and that hazards like a lack of bars in the restroom or cluttered hallways that could cause residents to trip are never present. Older people often have eyesight and balance issues, so anything in their way could be considered a fall hazard. Again, this could go back to being a staffing problem, but that’s not something your loved one should be worrying about.
It’s the nursing home’s responsibility to make sure it’s properly staffed at all times to ensure the continued care for all residents. Cluttered hallways, maintenance delays, and other hazards are indications that the nursing home isn’t employing enough people to take care of all the tasks that running a nursing home requires. Getting an attorney involved can force a facility to immediately correct these problems before someone gets hurt. Don’t wait until there’s a tragedy to call a lawyer.
#7: Medication Issues
If you notice that your loved one seems sleepier or more lethargic than usual, the first thing to do is have them examined by their physician. The examination might reveal that they’re more medicated than they should be. There are a couple of reasons behind over-medication in a nursing home. The first is the resident taking more medication than they should, which indicates they are not being properly monitored by staff.
The other option is that staff members could be using medication to keep residents sedated, and therefore, “less trouble.” This, of course, is abuse rather than neglect and should be reported right away. Hiring a lawyer will ensure that evidence of this behavior is preserved and that a full investigation takes place. Overdosing is even a possibility if the staff is providing more medication than prescribed, which could result in death.
If you notice any of these signs listed here, there’s a possibility that your loved one is suffering from nursing home neglect or abuse. Contact Cannon & Associates right away to consult with our nursing home experts.