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Neglect and Your Options: 3 Important Things to Remember When a Family Member is Neglected in a Nursing Home

Finding out that an elderly relative is being neglected in a nursing home can be shocking and overwhelming. You probably placed them in the facility because you expected they would get better care than what you are able to provide. Now the unthinkable has happened you may be wondering about how you should proceed. By the end of this article, you will be better able to handle the situation.

What is neglect?

Let’s get a definition first. Elder neglect accounts for more than half of all reported cases of elder abuse. It refers to the failure of a caregiver to fulfill their obligation to the person in their care.  Sometimes it can be intentional, but it can also be due to ignorance or denial. Warning signs include malnutrition and dehydration, untreated bed sores, unsanitary or unsafe living conditions and the patient being left dirty.

Here are some things to note.

Your relative may need counseling.

Like many victims of abuse, your family member may think the neglect is their fault and they may feel ashamed. They may also be fearful because they have been warned of the consequences of speaking up. You will need to assure them that they are not to blame and that they aren’t the only ones to have experienced such an unfortunate situation. If you can’t get through to them, you may need to enlist the services of a professional. They need to know that varying types of help are available.

You have steps for recourse.

Once you suspect or notice neglect you should reach out to the authorities. Contact Adult Protective Services or a medical professional. APS will assign a caseworker to investigate the situation if they suspect elder abuse laws are being breached. If there’s a Long-Term Care Ombudsman responsible for your area, you should also contact him or her. These professionals act as advocates for residents and help to mediate problems in nursing homes and assisted care facilities. They can also advise you on the next steps to take including making formal complaints.

In addition, you may need to contact a lawyer for nursing home neglect depending on the situation. The lawyer will answer any questions you have and advise you on whether you should file a lawsuit in an effort to hold the home responsible and recover damages. If your family member has died, his or her estate may be able to file a wrongful death claim depending on the circumstances.

You can protect your relative from future abuse.

While you may not have been able to prevent this instance of neglect, there are things you can do to prevent it from happening again. You should consider moving the individual from the current facility since the caregivers may repeat the behavior. You can use the Nursing Home Compare database to find information on Medicare and Medicaid-certified facilities if you’re searching for a new home. When you place your relative in a different facility, keep an eye on things. Make sure you stay in touch with the elderly person and get other relatives to do so in an effort to monitor any changes in health or behavior.

Abuse and neglect should never occur. It can be heartbreaking when it does happen. However, both elderly people and their relatives should know that all is not lost. Therapy, legal recourse,  and increased monitoring can all help.

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