Families and friends can help ensure the safety and well-being of loved ones in long-term care facilities by watching for symptoms of abuse which may include:
- Bed sores
- Poor personal hygiene
- Begging for food
- Unsanitary living conditions
- Dirt, soiled bed, fecal or urine odor
- Open wounds, cuts, bruises or welts
- Cigarette or acid burns
- Inadequate explanation of patient condition by caregiver
- Weight loss
- Sudden change in resident’s behavior
- Anxiety or agitation
- Extreme withdrawal
- Lack of communication
- Unusual behavior
There are additional steps you can take to ensure that your loved ones are not being abused or neglected in their residences. These include:
- Frequent visits scheduled at different times of day, varying days of the week and weekend, and during mealtimes to ensure that your relatives are not socially isolated; observing staff members, and making certain that the staff knows your family is involved and that a member might pop in at any time. Establishing networks of friends can be extremely helpful to residents who are capable of communicating. Making sure they contact each other at least once a week can help ward off social isolation, a breeding ground for abuse and neglect. Supervising the care residents receive can be invaluable in ensuring that your loved ones are taken care of properly. You should work with the nursing staff to develop a plan of care, making sure that it is implemented and that it works. Furthermore, you should maintain notes on the physical and mental condition of the resident, and examine medical records on a regular basis. It is also important to establish relationships with the nursing staffs and directors. Participating in activities and bringing young family members, such as grandchildren, may add excitement and joy to the life of relatives or friends.
- Initiating discussions with your relative or friend about daily living in the residence. If your loved one is unable to communicate with you or has a problem with impaired memory, try to speak with other residents, especially a neighbor or roommate who may be more aware of what is happening.
- A good source of information regarding nursing homes is the long-term care ombudsman. The ombudsman visits nursing homes on a regular basis, investigates complaints, advocates for residents and mediates their disputes. There are over 500 local ombudsman programs across the United States. You can obtain more information from your ombudsman www.ltcombudsman.org (federal) or www.ombudsman.state.ny.us/ (New York).In addition, you can compare one facility to another by using www.medicare.org, going to search tools and clicking on “compare health agencies in your area.” This Web site provides a wealth of information including quality of care, inspections, staffing and resources.
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