What Is Nursing Home Neglect?
Nursing home neglect is a tragic but all-too-common issue in the United States. It occurs when residents in nursing homes 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)
According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, 15.3% of elder abuse complaints in nursing homes are for neglect.
Many nursing homes treat elderly residents with respect. Sadly, some nursing home workers do not provide elderly residents with proper care. 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 a nursing home or report your worries to an elder care agency near you.
You may also be eligible to pursue legal compensation to find justice and closure. Get a free case review to see if you qualify.
Nursing Home Neglect vs Abuse
Many people think nursing home abuse only describes physical injuries and do not realize that neglect is a type of abuse as well.
A staff member who intentionally fails to care for a resident should be held responsible if their actions lead to harm or a wrongful death.
Even accidental nursing home neglect can be harmful in serious cases. For example, giving an older adult the wrong dose of medication can have life-threatening consequences.
What Causes Nursing Home Neglect?
Nursing home neglect cases are often the result of inadequate staffing. Employees who are stressed or overworked may not be able to provide the quality of care needed to keep residents healthy.
Common causes of caregiver stress include improper training and understaffing. In addition, nursing homes may not properly screen or run background checks on the employees they hire.
Get more information about the possible causes of nursing home neglect below.
Inadequate staffing can mean that there aren’t enough people to care for residents, which reduces overall quality of the facility. Impossible workloads lead to overworked staff who 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. According to a report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, 20% of all nursing homes in America were understaffed as of December 2020.
CBS News suggested that nursing homes struggle to keep long-term employees due to the stresses of caregiving and low pay.
Negligent Hiring Practices
Nursing homes may not do proper background checks or hire people who are not qualified to care for others. This can be risky and dangerous for nursing home residents.
For example, those who have struggled with drug and alcohol use or have been abused themselves are statistically more likely to abuse others. Nursing homes might even hire former criminals who have not reformed to care for vulnerable elders.
Sadly, negligent hiring practices can even extend beyond individual facilities and to those who run major nursing home chains.
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 for COVID-19 to still work — exposing residents to the deadly virus.
Even if new hires pass a background check, they can still commit nursing home 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. Reports noted that staff members were not trained to even the minimum acceptable level to care for others.
As a result, the staff made mistakes such as medication errors that caused serious harm to residents.
Do you believe that staff negligence harmed your loved one? Call (800) 896-7040 immediately to get help.
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 seniors with mobility issues, putting them at risk of bedsores
- Not reporting signs of infections or illnesses to nurses or doctors
In 2018, a jury awarded a 72-year-old nursing home resident over $1 million after they found that negligence caused her to develop severe bedsores. According to her attorneys, the woman never saw a doctor while living in the facility even though the staff knew she had bedsores.
Nursing homes provide a new opportunity for seniors to make friends later in life. Social interactions can improve a senior’s mood and overall mental health.
However, nursing home staff members can commit emotional 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
Neglect of Basic Living Needs
With this type of neglect, the nursing home or its staff fail to keep the facility and its amenities safe.
This may include:
- Failing to keep the nursing home at a normal temperature
- Not cleaning common areas or residents’ rooms on a regular basis
- Providing seniors unsafe or inadequate food and water
During the COVID-19 pandemic, an elderly woman died at a nursing home due to dehydration. The woman’s daughter believes that staff were too overwhelmed by the pandemic to provide her with enough water.
Neglect of Personal Hygiene
When staff members neglect the personal hygiene of residents, it can affect their appearance and health. Poor hygiene in nursing homes can even have life-threatening consequences.
Neglect of personal hygiene may include:
- Failing to change a senior’s clothes regularly
- Not changing the clothing or bedding of seniors who soil themselves
- Not properly bathing a senior
- Not regularly checking in on residents
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 that were so long that they curled, and his head was covered in bruises from falling.
Signs & Symptoms of Elder Neglect In Nursing Homes
Warning signs of nursing home neglect include:
- Bedsores (pressure ulcers/pressure sores)
- Broken bones
- New or untreated medical conditions
- Personal hygiene issues
- Significant personality changes
- Other unexplained injuries
Despite these signs, neglect can be very hard to detect as it may require the testimony of a witness. It can be even harder if the elder has Alzheimer’s or dementia, as they may not be able to give their side of the story.
However, there are several signs that may indicate that a staff member has been neglecting residents.
Signs that a staff member may be committing elder neglect include:
- Having a generally negative attitude toward caregiving
- Giving incorrect or ineffective doses of medication over long spans of time
- Providing prescriptions with conflicting medications or excessive side effects
With the help of legal counsel, you may be able to prove how neglect was caused by the actions of staff members in the nursing home. See if you can get legal help with a free case review.
Consequences of Nursing Home Neglect
Consequences for Elders
Nursing home neglect can have a significant impact on a resident’s physical health, emotional well-being, and personal hygiene.
- 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 & Emotional Consequences
- Isolation and loneliness
- Loss of trust in others
- Personality changes (depression, anxiety, or fear)
- Substance use disorders
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
- Unpaid bills or other debts
In the most severe cases, nursing home neglect results in death. The Boston Globe reported about 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 report also revealed that many other patients and their family members were dissatisfied with the quality of care at the facility. Complaints included that elders went long hours without food or changes of clothes. Some residents even went months without showers.
Consequences for Nursing Homes
The contract between a nursing home and a patient is often a legally binding document. 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 properly hire qualified individuals and train them to provide the best care possible. They also need to ensure that they have hired enough staff to provide care to all of the 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 older person. They need to assess each resident’s needs and accommodate them accordingly.
If a nursing home or its staff fails to keep residents safe, victims and their families may be able to take legal action against them through nursing home lawsuits. Some nursing home neglect lawsuits have awarded $1 million or more to victims.
See if you can file a nursing home neglect lawsuit. Call (800) 896-7040.
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.
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 who are not well-suited 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 need more supervision than they are receiving.
- Proper staffing and training: Adequate staffing and elder care education should be every nursing home’s first line of defense in preventing neglect.
- Reporting procedures: Nursing home staff should know the process for reporting concerns, including neglect. In addition, residents or family members who come forward with abuse allegations should be taken seriously.
In addition, friends and family can regularly check in on their loved ones in nursing homes. Loved ones may be able to spot warning signs of abuse or neglect during regular visits.
How Do I Report Neglect in a Nursing Home?
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 standard of care.
If you want to report nursing home neglect, you can first contact a long-term care ombudsman. A local ombudsman is an advocate for nursing home residents and can help investigate claims of neglect.
You can also report neglect to law enforcement, Adult Protective Services (APS), and social workers — all of them are well qualified to help you keep a senior safe.
Finally, you may want to report abuse to a nursing home abuse lawyer who can help you access compensation to pay for medical bills and other expenses.
When Can I Sue for Nursing Home Neglect?
If you or a loved one suffered severe health problems due to neglect caused by a nursing home facility, 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 to see if you can sue for nursing home neglect today. Nursing home abuse attorneys and law firms may be able to help you.