Placing your loved ones in a nursing home comes with many feelings, and a concern for their care is certainly at the top of that list, especially with the reality that abuse and neglect occurs in these homes. But there are many ways that families, friends, staff, nurses, and facilities can help prevent these situations.
The four most common forms of neglect are emotional or social neglect, personal hygiene neglect, basic needs neglect, and medical neglect. And the chances of neglect and abuse increase based on a number of factors. Below you will find strategies that both the nursing home and friends and family of the patients can use to promote prevention.
What Nursing Facilities and Staff Can Do to Help:
- Consistent staff training about identifying and preventing abuse. This should not just be at point of hire, but throughout time of employment.
- Allow frequent breaks to keep exhaustion and stress levels down on staff. Do not ask nurses to work double shifts when at all possible.
- Provide a support system for nurses and staff to promote teamwork and alleviate stress.
- Hire enough nurses to be fully staffed. The chance of neglect or abuse is much more likely with a facility that has a low staff to patient ratio.
- Screen staff before hire about their feelings about caring for elders, how they would react if they witnessed abuse, their work ethic, how they handle stress, and if they have a history of alcohol or substance abuse.
- Promote excellent communication between staff, nurses, patients, and their families. When there are changes in residents’ needs, everyone should be in the know. Unclear expectations of staff are common factors to abuse and neglect according to Adult Protective Service Administrators.
- Provide an abusive prevention policy. Studies show that facilities that do not have this are more likely to have unreported cases of abuse and neglect.
- Develop a volunteer program for volunteers to spend time with residents who don’t have regular visits. Make sure volunteers understand how to look for and report care problems they may see.
- For more information about how your facility can help, visit the National Center on Elder Abuse at ncea.aoa.gov to find valuable resources, training, and answers.
What Family Members and Friends Can Do to Help:
- Visit often. Studies show that patients who rarely receive visitors are at greater risk of being mistreated as there is nobody to check in on them.
- Be understanding of nurses and do not try to control the care. Understandably, it can be a very stressful situation for family members, but over-involvement can actually be harmful as unreasonable demands on staff or even alienating the staff increases the stress levels for everyone involved.
- Increase awareness and educate others. Help not only your loved ones, but others’ loved ones by sharing your knowledge about how to identify and watch for signs of neglect and abuse.
- Remain healthy yourself and implement stress-reducing practices. When you visit, your focus should be on spending time with your loved one and not on outside stressors or personal health complications.
If you are concerned or suspect neglect or abuse in a care facility, there are actions you can take including visiting often, keeping a close eye on the facility, keeping a journal, and taking pictures. Patients have rights to how they are being treated. For more information on this, please visit our Nursing Home Abuse/Negligence page. And feel free to call anytime to speak with Attorney James Giffels for a free, no-obligation consultation to determine what we can do for you.