In Albuquerque, across New Mexico and throughout the United States, one of the most difficult issues a family must face is if they have an elderly loved one who needs more care than he or she can get at home. Placing that person in a facility is a complicated decision about which people might be reluctant or outright guilty. Still, it can benefit everyone if the nursing home gives proper medical and personal care while providing the resident with companionship and a sense of community. Unfortunately, some of these facilities are also rife with allegations and evidence of abuse and neglect. For people who think their loved one might have been abused in any way – physically, sexually, emotionally or financially – it is important to know what options are available.
People in New Mexico should pay attention to cases across the nation and around the world to know what to look for. One recent case in Chicago involved a 69-year-old man who was mistreated and abused at a nursing home. According to the family, they would not have known what was occurring had another woman who was there to see a family member saw the man on the floor and crying for help. He was bloody, had food scattered around him and was undressed. No staff member came to help. Staff members claimed that he wanted to be on the floor and refused to get up. The family contacted local legislators and the investigation is moving forward.
This is a problem everywhere and federal authorities are aware of it. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General assessed California nursing home abuse allegations going back to 2017. It found that almost one in five had issues with reporting the incidents in a timely fashion or failed to report them to the California Department of Public Health at all. Other problems included missing information that was needed to adequately investigate the cases. If facilities are not aboveboard in reporting abuse and neglect allegations and family members are unaware of it, it is all but impossible for it to be stopped.
Nursing home mistreatment happens. Abuse in which a resident is physically harmed, is confronted with workers who do not give them what they need, steals from them or sexually assaults them is a common occurrence. Neglect is another problem that can be just as damaging, if not more. Leaving a person without medication, failing to give them nutrition, allowing bedsores, not paying attention, leaving the facility unclean, placing them at risk of a fall, lacking supervision – all are examples of neglect.
Elderly people who have medical conditions like dementia may have trouble communicating what is happening to them. Family members should know that certain behaviors like acting withdrawn, refusing to eat, not communicating and appearing fearful are underlying signals. There are obvious signs like bruising, an unexpected decline in health and unexplained weight loss, among others. If there is even a suspicion that abuse or neglect has taken place, it is imperative to be proactive and call for advice and help. This can put a stop to the mistreatment and hold the facility accountable for its behavior and lack of vigilance.