What Is Nursing Home Neglect?
Nursing home neglect occurs when residents do not get proper care and suffer physical or mental health problems as a result.
“Neglect is the failure to meet an older adult’s basic needs. These needs include food, water, shelter, clothing, hygiene, and essential medical care.”
—Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Neglect in nursing homes and other care facilities is a tragic but all-too-common issue in the United States.
How Common Is Nursing Home Neglect?
According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, 15.3% of elder abuse complaints in nursing homes are for neglect.
Most nursing homes provide proper care to residents and treat them with respect. However, many do not. Failure to meet a nursing home resident’s basic needs is neglect, and it is always unacceptable.
If you think a loved one might be suffering from neglect, you have options. You can talk to a trusted staff member at the facility or report nursing home neglect to your state’s long-term care ombudsman.
You may also be eligible to pursue legal compensation to get the justice and closure your family deserves. Get a free case review right now to see if you qualify.
Nursing Home Neglect vs. Abuse
Many people think nursing home abuse must involve intentional physical harm. However, this is not the case. Nursing home neglect is also a form of abuse. In fact, neglect can be just as dangerous to a resident’s well-being.
A staff member who intentionally fails to care for a resident should be held responsible if their actions lead to harm or wrongful death.
Even accidental nursing home or assisted living neglect can lead to life-threatening consequences. For example, failing to reposition a resident could lead to excruciatingly painful stage 4 bedsores that can easily become infected.
What Causes Nursing Home Neglect?
One of the main causes of nursing home neglect is inadequate staffing. Employees who are stressed or overworked may not be able to provide the quality of care needed to keep residents safe and healthy.
In addition, nursing homes may not properly screen or run background checks on the employees they hire.
Here is more information on some common causes of nursing home neglect.
Understaffing in nursing homes can mean there aren’t enough people to care for residents, which reduces the facility’s overall quality. Overworked staff cannot fulfill their duties and are more likely to make mistakes.
Sadly, understaffing in nursing homes has been a long-term problem that only worsened in recent years, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the hardest-hit populations are already underserved.
“Low-income residents, disproportionately people of color, fare the worst. Their nursing homes report the lowest staffing levels, but data show they seldom get in trouble because of it.”
In a 2022 news release, the American Health Care Association, the nation’s largest long-term care advocacy group, reported that 94% of the country’s facilities missed minimum staffing guidelines.
Many believe that nursing homes struggle to keep long-term employees due to the stresses of caregiving and low pay. Regardless of the reasons, understaffing in nursing homes can be deadly.
Negligent Hiring Practices
Nursing homes may not do proper background checks or hire people who are not qualified to care for others. This can put nursing home residents at high risk for harm.
For example, those who have struggled with drug and alcohol use or have been abused themselves are statistically more likely to harm others. Nursing homes might even hire former criminals who have not reformed to care for vulnerable residents.
Negligent hiring practices can extend beyond individual facilities and into the major nursing home chains that many families rely on.
For example, Arizona’s governor disbanded a board of nursing home administrators after they hired a felon to run a nursing home. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the felon required employees who tested positive to still work — exposing residents to the deadly virus.
Do you believe that staff negligence harmed your loved one? Call (800) 896-7040 immediately to get help.
Even if new nursing home employees pass a background check, they can still commit nursing home or assisted living neglect if they’re not properly trained by the facility.
A Wisconsin nursing home closed its doors after multiple allegations of abuse, mistreatment, and neglect were made. Reports noted that staff members were not trained to provide even a minimum acceptable level of care for others.
As a result, the staff made mistakes such as medication errors that caused serious harm to residents.
Types of Neglect in Nursing Homes
Nursing home negligence can come in a few different forms. Learn about the most common types below.
Medical neglect occurs when a nursing home staff member fails to meet a resident’s health care needs.
Medical neglect may include:
- Failing to administer medications when needed
- Improper medical care for existing health problems like diabetes or dementia
- Not regularly moving residents with mobility issues, putting them at risk of bedsores
- Not reporting signs of infections or illnesses to nurses or doctors
Left untreated, bedsores can lead to potentially life-threatening conditions, including sepsis.
Neglect of Basic Living Needs
With this type of neglect, the nursing home or its staff fails to provide residents with even minimal levels of care.
This may include:
- Failing to keep the nursing home at a comfortable temperature
- Not cleaning common areas or residents’ rooms regularly
- Providing inadequate food and water to residents
During the COVID-19 crisis, an older resident died at a nursing home due to dehydration. The woman’s daughter believes that the staff was too overwhelmed by the pandemic to properly care for her.
Neglect of Personal Hygiene
When staff members neglect residents’ personal hygiene, it can affect their appearance and health. Poor hygiene in nursing homes can even have life-threatening consequences, such as outbreaks of deadly infections.
Neglect of personal hygiene may include:
- Failing to change the clothing or bedding of residents
- Improperly bathing residents
- Not regularly checking in on residents
In one case, a 78-year-old nursing home resident thought he went blind as his eyes were crusted shut due to a lack of care from staff. He also had untrimmed nails so long that they curled, and his head was covered in bruises from falling.
Social and Emotional Neglect
Nursing homes can provide a new opportunity for older adults to make friends later in life. Social interactions can improve mood and overall mental health.
However, nursing home staff members can commit emotional nursing home abuse or neglect if they prevent residents from interacting with others.
This can occur if staff members:
- Accidentally isolate vulnerable residents
- Fail to provide canes, wheelchairs, or walkers to residents with mobility problems
- Forget to move residents with severe mobility or mental issues
Download our FREE Nursing Home Abuse Handbook to learn more about the types of nursing home neglect and abuse.
Signs and Symptoms of Nursing Home Neglect
Warning signs of nursing home neglect include:
- Bedsores (also called pressure ulcers or pressure sores)
- Bruises, broken bones, and burns
- Dehydration and malnutrition
- Falls that could have been prevented
- Insomnia and other sleep disturbances
- New or untreated medical conditions
- Personal hygiene issues
- Significant personality changes
- Other unexplained nursing home injuries
Despite these warning signs, nursing home and assisted living neglect can be hard to detect. This is because many residents have underlying health conditions that could mirror symptoms of neglect.
Nursing home neglect can be even harder to detect if a resident has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. These conditions may prevent victims from being able to report nursing home neglect.
Loved ones should be sure to watch for warning signs that may mean a staff member has been neglecting residents.
Possible signs that staff may be committing nursing home neglect include:
- Having a generally negative attitude toward caregiving
- Giving incorrect or ineffective doses of medication
- Providing prescriptions with conflicting medications or excessive side effects
With the help of a skilled nursing home neglect attorney, you may be able to prove how the actions or inactions of staff members harmed your loved one.
Connect with us now to see how we may be able to help.
Consequences of Nursing Home Neglect
Nursing home neglect can have severe consequences for both residents and facilities. Learn more about these consequences below.
Consequences for Residents
Nursing home neglect can significantly impact a resident’s personal hygiene, physical health, and emotional well-being.
- Bad odor
- Dirty skin
- Ill-fitting, unclean, damaged, or missing clothes
Physical Health Consequences
- Recurring illnesses or serious injuries
- Untreated medical or dental issues
- Weight loss or malnutrition
Social and Emotional Consequences
- Isolation and loneliness
- Loss of trust in others
- Personality changes (depression, anxiety, or fear)
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
In the more severe cases, nursing home neglect can result in wrongful death.
The Boston Globe reported on a Vietnam veteran who died in a Massachusetts nursing home because his nurse spent the night playing video games instead of checking on him.
The article also revealed that many other residents and family members came forward to report nursing home neglect at the facility. Complaints included that residents went long hours without food or changes of clothes. Some residents even went months without baths or showers.
Consequences For Nursing Homes
The contract between a nursing home and a patient is usually legally binding. Failing to provide proper care can result in civil or criminal penalties.
Staff members or facilities that neglect patients may lose the ability to care for others. In addition, they may be subject to steep fines from law enforcement or lawsuits.
Who Is Legally Responsible for Nursing Home Neglect?
Both the nursing home and individual staff members may be legally responsible for nursing home neglect.
- Long-term care facilities have a duty to hire qualified individuals and train them to provide the best care possible. They also need to hire enough staff to care for all residents. Finally, those who own the facilities must keep them clean and in good working order.
- Nursing home staff have little room for error because a simple mistake can be deadly to a vulnerable resident. They need to assess each resident’s needs and accommodate them.
If a nursing home or its staff fails to keep residents safe, victims and their families may be able to take legal action through nursing home lawsuits.
Some nursing home neglect lawsuits have awarded $1 million or more to victims.
Seek justice for nursing home neglect now. Get a free case review.
Preventing Nursing Home Neglect
Nursing home neglect is generally caused by inaction rather than action. This means it can often be prevented with planning and care. Most importantly, witnesses must do their part and report nursing home neglect.
To reduce the risk of neglect, make sure a facility has:
- Criminal record checks: Criminal record checks and extensive interviewing can help vet potential employees and eliminate candidates unsuited for a caregiving position.
- Flexible care plans: Assisted living facilities should keep track of a resident’s health and adjust care plans as needed. For example, a resident who accidentally sets fire to their kitchen may require more supervision than they are receiving.
- Proper staffing and training: Appropriate staffing and elder care education should be every nursing home’s first defense in preventing neglect.
- Reporting procedures: Nursing home staff should know how to report concerns, including neglect. In addition, residents or family members who report nursing home neglect or abuse should be taken seriously.
Friends and family can regularly check in on their loved ones in nursing homes. Regular visits are often the best way to spot any warning signs of abuse or nursing home neglect.
How to Report Nursing Home Neglect
One of the best ways to report nursing home neglect is to contact a long-term care ombudsman. A local ombudsman advocates for nursing home residents and can help investigate suspected neglect.
You can also report nursing home neglect to law enforcement, Adult Protective Services (APS), and social workers — who are all qualified to help keep older adults safe.
Finally, you may want to report nursing home neglect to a top nursing home law firm that can help you access compensation to pay for medical bills and other expenses.
Nursing home neglect is a serious matter that can have deadly consequences. It’s critical that all cases are reported. This helps ensure the victim’s safety and puts pressure on the nursing home to improve its care standards.
Can I Sue for Nursing Home Neglect?
Yes. If you or a loved one suffered serious harm due to nursing home neglect, you may be able to file a lawsuit.
Taking legal action for nursing home neglect is an important step. It allows you to pursue financial compensation to cover the costs of medical treatment and hold the nursing home accountable.
Get a free case review now to see if we can connect you with a top nursing home abuse attorney.
Nursing Home Neglect FAQs
What is the definition of neglect in nursing homes?
Neglect in nursing homes is defined as failing to provide proper care to a resident, either by a nursing home employee or administrative member. Nursing homes can be held legally responsible for neglect if it harms a resident.
Can you sue a nursing home for neglect?
Yes, you can sue a nursing home for neglect if it brought harm to a resident. Examples include developing a severe infection or suffering from a serious injury that should have been prevented.
How long do nursing home neglect cases take?
The length of a nursing home neglect case depends on several factors, such as the extent of neglect and whether it caused injuries that led to a hospital stay or other medical care.
In these cases, the nursing home may wish to reach a settlement agreement out of court. Nursing home settlements often resolve faster than court trials.
If your case is accepted, a skilled nursing home abuse lawyer can help estimate how long your nursing home neglect lawsuit will take.
Will a nursing home neglect case shut down a nursing home?
Not necessarily. While nursing homes may be held liable for neglect or abuse, they will likely not be shut down. However, they may be required to report the neglect to Medicare, compensate the victim or their family, and comply with regulatory hiring practices moving forward.