How can Texans protect their loved ones from nursing home abuse?

Nursing home neglect and abuse is all too common in Texas, and elsewhere, but there are things people can do to help protect their loved ones.

Often, people throughout Texas, with help from their families, make the decision to move into nursing homes. In these types of long-term care facilities, they believe they will get the day-to-day assistance and medical care they need. All too often, however, nursing home residents are mistreated by those who are charged with their care. There are things that people can do to help protect their loved ones from nursing home neglect and abuse.

When most people think of abuse, physical abuse is what comes to mind. While this type of mistreatment is prevalent in nursing homes, elder neglect and abuse may take on a number of other forms. Psychological abuse, sexual abuse, financial exploitation and gross neglect are also common types of elder mistreatment.

Watch for signs of abuse

Nursing home residents may be unable, too scared or embarrassed to tell even their families if they have been the victims of neglect or abuse. As a result, the mistreatment may be ongoing, which could lead to worsened medical conditions or death. By watching out for signs of nursing home neglect and abuse, however, people may identify potential issues right away.

The physical signs of abuse are easily identifiable. Unexplained bruises, cuts, broken bones and other physical maladies may be signs that a nursing home resident is being abused. Other signs of mistreatment may be less obvious. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, some of the most common signs of nursing home abuse include the following:

• Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities

• Sudden changes in alertness

• Unusual depression

• Poor hygiene

• Unusual weight loss

• Bedsores

Additionally, unattended medical needs may also signal that nursing home residents are not receiving the care and treatment that they need, and deserve.

Visiting your loved one at differing times, and not keeping a regular schedule is also a way to watch out. If another resident, or an employee is engaging in improper behavior and they know that visits are at certain regular times, activities can be conducted around scheduled visits. By visiting at different, unscheduled times, conduct can sometimes be discovered - or perhaps the perpetrator will decide the chance of being discovered is enough to discourage the conduct all together.

Listen to residents

While nursing home residents may not come right out and say that they have been abused or neglected, they may indicate a change in their relationships with their caregivers. Furthermore, nursing home residents may also express a dislike for certain people who work in their nursing homes. Strained or tense relationships between nursing home residents and their caregivers may signal an issue. Additionally, frequent arguments between residents and caregivers may be a sign of nursing home neglect or abuse.

By listening to their loved ones, people may pick up on these types of issues. This may raise concerns, which they or the appropriate authorities, can look into in order to prevent abuse from continuing.

Report suspicions right away

When people suspect that a loved one is being mistreated by a caregiver in their nursing home, it is vital that they report their concerns right way. If the nursing home resident requires immediate medical attention, or if the danger is immediate, people should call 911. In other situations, according to the Attorney General of Texas' website, suspicions of nursing home neglect or abuse should be reported to the state's Department of State Health Services.

After a report is made with the Department of State Health Services, the Texas Department of Aging and Disability's Regulatory Services Division will conduct an investigation. Such investigations may include unannounced observations, records reviews and interviews. Once a determination is made, the person who reported the suspected mistreatment is notified of the findings.

Seeking legal guidance

Nursing home abuse puts some of the most vulnerable citizens in Texas, and elsewhere, in grave danger. If a family member has been subjected to such mistreatment, consider consulting with an attorney. Our lawyers will help you understand your rights, and can discuss all available options for taking legal action to protect your loved ones.