Many warning signs of neglect are overlooked or thought to be a common part of growing old.  Undue pain, abandonment, and premature death should not be part of the nursing home experience.  The six warning signs below, could save the life of your parent or prevent serious pain and harm.  The following warning signs are not presented in ranking order.  All are equally serious and warrant further investigation.

Weight loss: Both medication and advanced age’s deadening of senses can affect appetite.  Negligent nursing homes often do not have the staff or the caring spirit needed to make sure their residents receive necessary nutrition and hydration.  Without proper nutrition, the body begins to eat itself in a serious medical condition called “cachexia.”  Additionally, susceptibility to disease increases with malnutrition as does your loved one’s suffering. 

Bruises: Families of nursing home residents should demand answers when they see bruises on a loved one’s body.  Bruises (actually pools of blood from broken capillaries) heal slowly in people with poor circulation.  Bruising can often occur when a nursing home resident is not handled correctly, for example lifting machines, transfers, etc, or when the resident is allowed to fall.  Any bruise or cut requires both medical attention and an evaluation to determine its cause. Sometimes a bruise may support evidence of sexual abuse.

Falls: Serious and/or frequent falls are a definite symptom of nursing home neglect.  It is the legal responsibility of a nursing home to develop a nursing care plan for each nursing home resident to help prevent falls.  Do not let what might seem like minor falls go undocumented, especially as they may lead to major medical expenses.  Nursing home falls can result in lasting injury, sometimes fatal. 

Bedsores: Bedsores are sometimes called pressure sores or decubitous ulcers.  These sores are caused by poor nutrition and prolonged pressure on the bodies of patients permitted to lie unattended for long periods of time.  Bedsores are painful.  At Stage 1, bedsores appear as painful red inflammations on the skin.  By Stage 4, a bedsore eats through skin and muscle to expose bone.  There is no reason for a properly cared for nursing home resident to suffer this neglect and abuse.

Restraints: Nursing homes use both physical and chemical restraints on their patients.  Physical restraints involve any method that the individual cannot remove easily and which restricts freedom of movement such as leg restraints, arm restraints, hand mitts, cuffs, wheelchair safety bars, bedrails, and lap pillows.  Abusive nursing homes also restrain your loved ones by tucking their bedsheet so tightly that they cannot move or turn those under their facilitated care into zombies by forcing them to take heavy sedatives to make them more manageable.

Staff inattention: Nursing homes are businesses, and one way many business owners increase profits is by cutting labour costs.  Many nursing homes are understaffed and nurses and care workers overworked.  When the staff can’t respond in a timely manner, mistakes happen.  Pills are given too often or not at all.  Patient hygiene suffers.  Signs of serious illness are overlooked.  Staff inattention and failure to respond to patients’ requests is a common complaint about nursing homes.  Nursing home patients need special care.  Do not remain quiet if you feel your loved one is not receiving the attention or not being treated with the dignity by a nursing home.  Speak up.