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It is important to watch for signs that your loved one may be a victim of abuse or neglect. Most nursing home residents must depend on the staff for most or all of their daily needs, including food, water, medicine, toileting, grooming, stimulation and turning.
Although most facilities provide good care, some cause needless suffering and death. Sadly, many nursing home residents are starved, dehydrated, over-medicated, and suffer painful pressure sores. In addition, they may be isolated, ignored, and deprived of social contact and stimulation.
The following is a list of some forms of nursing home abuse:
Nursing home abuse victimizes the most vulnerable individuals. Although many residents can report mistreatment, some cannot even describe what happened.
If your relative or friend is a nursing home resident, you can help by watching out for signs of abuse, including:
Neglect means the negligent failure by any person with care or custody of an elderly or a dependent adult to exercise that degree of care that a reasonable person in a similar position would exercise.
Neglect includes, but is not limited to:
Abuse or neglect can lead to severe injury, infection, or even death. The following is a description of some of these severe injuries.
Bedsores are also known as pressure ulcers, pressure sores, and decubitus ulcers.
The primary cause of bedsores is unrelieved pressure to a particular part of the body. They also may result from friction, like rubbing against something like a bed sheet, cast, brace, etc., or from prolonged exposure to cold.
Any area of skin tissue directly over a bone is a potential site for a bedsore. These areas include the spine, coccyx or "tailbone," hips, heels, and elbows. The factors that contribute to formation of a bedsore include poor nutrition, poor hygiene, weight loss, diabetes, and dehydration.
The least serious kind of bedsore looks like skin discoloration, and may disappear within a few hours after relieving pressure on that area. However, more severe bedsores are profound wounds, which can extend through skin tissue into internal organs or bones.
Medical professionals have identified similarities between bedsores and burns. Like a first-degree burn, a mild bedsore may involve mild redness of the skin and/or blisters. A third-degree or fourth-degree burn, or severe bedsore, may have a deep open wound with a lot of blackened tissue, which is called "eschar."
The primary treatment for bedsores starts with removing all pressure from the affected area, to prevent further tissue decay and promote healing. The victim must be turned or repositioned frequently and get enriched nutrition. The affected area must be kept clean, and dead or "necrotic" tissue should be removed to minimize the risk of infection. The worst bedsores often require a surgical procedure, known as debridement of dead tissue.
If you suspect that a relative or friend is suffering from a bedsore, you need to get immediate medical attention for that individual.
In addition, help your loved one get legal assistance. Very frequently, severe bedsores result from abuse and neglect. Federal regulations confirm that there rarely is a valid medical reason for a bedsore to develop into a massive deep wound, which is known as the "stage 4" level.
Suffocation and Strangulation
A frail nursing home resident can suffocate or strangle to death in a hospital bed, if ignored or neglected by nursing home staff. Between 1993 and 1996, 74 of these cases were reported, and probably many more went unreported.
The design of the side rails on a nursing home bed may contribute to the danger. Often side rails have slats that are spaced six or more inches apart. That space may trap an elderly person's head, causing him or her to strangle, or allow a thin individual to squeeze between the rails and fall to the floor. If the mattress on a nursing home bed does fit properly in the bed frame, a patient may be trapped and strangle in a gap between the mattress and side-rails.
For the elderly, falling is the most frequent cause of fractures. Nursing home staff must regularly evaluate each patient; determine his or her risk for falling, and provide safety devices and services that each individual needs to minimize the risk of injury. Some of the risk factors for harmful falls include:
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