Physical Neglect in Nursing Homes & Legal Concerns
Physical neglect is a leading cause of many nursing home negligence and elder abuse cases. Physical neglect can be inadvertent, reckless, or intentional, and it can be based on a willful denial of the care an elderly person needs, a failure to appropriately assess a resident’s needs, or, most commonly, understaffing at the nursing home. Physical neglect can result in injuries or death to an elderly person. Often, even family members are unaware of the signs of physical neglect.
Physical neglect can include a failure to provide an elderly person with adequate hygiene, a failure to provide for basic needs such as going to the bathroom or nourishment, a failure to offer adequate medical care, and a failure to offer any emotional attention. Personal hygiene neglect arises when nursing home staff members do not give residents who need it adequate assistance picking out or putting on a clean change of clothes, brushing teeth, grooming, or bathing. Failures to help an elderly person take enough baths, for example, can result in bedsores. Similarly, some nursing home staff members fail to provide a safe and clean environment for immobile elderly residents. Because of their inability to fend for themselves, this type of neglect can result in dehydration, malnutrition, or unexplained falls.
Common Signs of Physical Neglect
Unmet basic needs
Unmet medical needs
Lack of emotional attention
Many families assume that a nursing home will call a doctor to give their loved ones appropriate and necessary medical treatment. However, staff members may not be adequately trained in signs of dehydration, malnutrition, or bedsores. Bedsores often develop, for example, because staff members do not understand how frequently an immobile person must be moved and fail to recognize the lesions as requiring medical care until an infection or other obvious symptoms develop. Similarly, while nursing home staff members may overmedicate a resident with sedatives to control behavior, they may fail to provide adequate or consistent doses of other necessary medication, such as insulin for diabetics.
A nursing home can be held directly liable for physical neglect whether an individual staff member does the neglecting or multiple staff members are neglectful. If the neglect is intentional, both the nursing home and the individual staff member may be held liable for compensatory damages, and the nursing home may face the possibility of punitive damages. A neglected resident’s lawyer investigating whether there was elder abuse will look at the policies and procedures of the nursing home to determine if there were adequate safeguards against physical neglect.
How Can You Tell A Resident is Being Neglected?
Residents may not feel comfortable voicing concerns about neglect directly, so they may rely on friends or family to identify signs of neglect.
Often, elderly nursing home residents are humiliated by physical neglect. They may be uncomfortable telling loved ones or authorities what has happened to them, or in cases when they have cognitive deficits, they may not be able to communicate what happened or testify on their own behalf. Sometimes, staff members threaten patients to keep them silent. The elderly resident may not know whether telling family members or the authorities about the abuse will only lead to further abuse. It is important for family members to watch out for signs of neglect in their loved ones.
Some signs of physical neglect include bedsores, malnutrition, dehydration, unusual weight loss, bedsores, unsuitable clothes for the weather, soiled bedding, dirt or bugs in the facility, lack of heat, and faulty electrical wiring.
Some significant signs that a caregiver is at an increased risk of abusing an elder is inability to cope with stress, depression, lack of support from other caregivers, substance abuse, or open dislike of the job. Nursing home staff may also be more likely to abuse elders if they have inadequate training, hold too many responsibilities, or work under a difficult administration.