Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease that steals your loved one a memory at a time. It can be scary, both for the patient and their family members. And as much as their family may want to provide the best possible care, at some point, it becomes impractical and even dangerous to keep the Alzheimer’s patient at home. They may forget the stove is on and start a fire or wander away and forget where they live.
Nursing homes and memory care facilities are meant to provide a safe, stable environment, compassionate care, and adequate medical support. The question is, how do you measure the quality of their care when you can’t be there to monitor it 24/7? You may wonder: Are your loved ones safe? What should you look for in a care facility? What are the warning signs of abuse or neglect? And what can you do if you find out your loved one is in danger?
One might assume that an abused patient would report their abuser to the facility management or a family member. Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can compromise a patient’s ability to report abuse or defend themselves, making them vulnerable to predators and neglect.
Dementia attacks the patient’s ability to process and recall information. They may not understand what is happening to them or remember the incident or who is responsible. They may be unable to verbalize the problem when you visit, even if they do remember it, or they may be intimidated into remaining silent.
Investigating Options Before Patient Move-in
Selecting a facility can feel intimidating as you try to find something close enough to visit that’s in your budget and will be as homey and comfortable as possible for your loved one. You can contact Eldercare Locator or A Place For Mom. They have searchable databases and customer service agents to assist you when assembling a list of viable options.
List in hand, you can delve deeper into each facility’s reputation for patient comfort and care. Here is a checklist to help you in your investigation.
- Check your state’s Health and Human Services Department and Medicare.gov to verify the facility is licensed.
- Check the Eldercare Locator for your local ombudsman (patient advocate), who can tell you if any citations indicate patient injuries or medication errors.
- Verify there hasn’t been a recent change in ownership, which would make it impossible to verify the company’s track record.
- Schedule a visit during the week to talk to a supervisor and take a tour. Then show up on a weekend when the supervisor isn’t there. Check that the following is consistent at both visits.
- There is at least one caregiver for every eight memory care patients.
- It looks clean and homey rather than like a hospital.
- Residents look clean and cared for.
- There are no offensive smells in common areas or patient rooms.
- Residents are happily engaged in daily programs.
- Nurses are smiling and engaged with the patients or standing at their stations.
- The food is appetizing (eat with the residents to verify).
- The residents communicate that they are happy in their care home (talk with them to find out).
- The facility can see to your loved one’s specific needs (meet with facility leaders, discuss the needs, and ask for details about how they will meet them).
- Your loved one is allowed to have personal comfort items in their room.
After your research, you should feel confident that you’ve found the facility that will best serve your family member’s needs. The transition may be difficult for your loved one as environmental changes can be distressing. Competent and compassionate nursing staff will help you navigate this transition; your loved one should settle in nicely.
While you feel your loved one is in good hands, monitoring your loved one for changes or injuries is essential. There may be one bad apple in the medical team who neglects their duty, gets impatient, or gets violent. The other possibility is that a patient is mistreating other patients. Some dementia patients get combative.
Hopefully, you never see any signs of mistreatment, but it is good to know what to watch for. While some items on this list (such as personality changes) may be a natural progression of your loved one’s disease, you’ll still want to take a closer look at the danger signs:
- Your family member says they’re being hurt or neglected by staff or another patient. Some dementia patients can experience paranoia, falsely accusing others of maltreatment. If this is a pattern, look for other signs to corroborate their statement. Don’t assume their statements are false, especially if it is out of character for them to make such accusations.
- Bedsores, body odor, greasy hair, weight loss, and other signs that physical needs and basic hygiene aren’t taken care of by the nursing staff.
- Abrupt changes in behavior, personality, withdrawal, or loss of interest in favorite activities.
- Agitation increases around a specific individual, either staff or other patients.
- Unexplained bruising, abrasions, burns, and other injuries. Older adults tend to bruise or break bones easier with everyday bumps and falls, but ask questions. Does the nursing staff have a logical explanation? Did the patient receive prompt, adequate treatment? Can the doctor confirm that their injury matches the staff’s explanation? Are steps being taken to prevent further damage, such as providing a walker for someone who is a fall risk? Did they notify you?
If you suspect your loved one was harmed by nursing home staff or another patient, report it immediately. If the harm is coming from an employee, ensure that they are reported to the authorities to protect your family and other patients.
The next step is to call a Las Vegas accident injury attorney familiar with nursing home neglect and abuse. An injury lawyer ensures that the responsible party or facility pays for additional medical bills, costs incurred to move your family to another facility, pain, and suffering (if applicable), etc. A lawyer also prevents abuse from being swept under the rug by facility administrators wishing to protect their reputations.
Wondering if you have a viable legal case for your loved one’s nursing home injuries or neglect? Try our free case analysis tool to learn more.