Medical Issues

The Dangers of Nursing Homes

Nursing Home Abuse

When your elderly parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or other loved one needs support you can’t provide, putting them in a nursing home is an incredibly tough decision for the entire family. Many families hesitate to put their loved ones in nursing homes. 

Sadly, there’s a good reason to hesitate. The Department of Health and Human Services received 71,602 nursing home complaints from across the country in 2018. In Michigan, the state received a total of 3,243 complaints in 2018, 749 of which were high priority complaints. And in a 2014 study, 33% of seniors in skilled nursing home facilities experienced adverse or temporary harm events, 59% of which were preventable. 

What are the dangers of nursing homes, why are nursing homes so dangerous, and what can you do to protect your loved ones? Here’s what you need to know—and when it’s time to hire an experienced personal injury attorney. 

The Dangers of Nursing Homes

The dangers of nursing homes can be grouped under three categories: 

  • Quality of care
  • Resident neglect
  • Resident abuse

Quality of care concerns include things like delays or failure in medical care, inadequate patient monitoring, and a substandard quality of care. A report issued last summer by Pennsylvania Senators Bob Casey and Patrick J. Toomey listed nearly 400 nursing homes that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services cited for substandard care. 

Resident neglect goes hand-in-hand with substandard care. The most common example is staff ignoring patients, whether that means providing delayed or inadequate medical care, delaying food and liquid, or leaving patients in unsanitary conditions. 

Then there’s outright abuse, in which staff members physically or sexually abuse residents because they know residents cannot advocate for themselves. 

Why are Nursing Homes Dangerous?

Not all nursing homes go to such horrific lengths, but far too many offer substandard care to their residents. Similarly, not all nursing home staff members intend to cause harm to their patients—some are doing their best to help—but many staff members, even well-meaning ones, still fail their patients. 

So why is it that nursing homes are so dangerous?

For many nursing homes, the issue is staffing shortages. A review of federal health data by Kaiser Health News and the New York Times found that many nursing homes overstate their staffing levels in government reports. An analysis of payroll records for 14,000 nursing homes showed significant staff fluctuations, particularly on weekends, leaving on-duty staff trying to care for twice as many patients. 

Sadly, many negligent nursing homes are purposefully understaffed to save money, and personnel in nursing homes are underpaid and overworked. Nurses often move between one facility and another quickly because of poor working conditions, which means they don’t have enough time to build relationships with their patients. 

And while Medicare has strict safety standards, inspections may not be timely, and some inspectors are more lenient than others. 

Finally, nursing home patients are often the ones worst equipped to speak to abuse or neglect. Many patients have significant medical needs, including cognition and memory problems. Some may not even remember their own names or recognize their loved ones, making it easier for a negligent nursing home to pass off complaints as a confused or disoriented patient. 

What are the Signs of Bad Care?

With that in mind, there are ways for families to identify the signs of bad nursing home care, even if their loved ones cannot communicate. 

One of the biggest red flags is marked physical and emotional changes, such as sudden changes in sleeping patterns, losing weight, unexplained bruises, or agitation. The tricky part is that these may be clues of poor care, not proof, as some changes are issues attached to an underlying disease rather than poor care. 

To figure out if it’s bad care, observe your loved one with the staff. Stop by unexpectedly at various times throughout the day. If you see something worrisome, say something to the staff and ask for an answer. Then watch what they do. 

Similarly, frantic, disordered, or inadequate staff is another telltale sign that something is wrong. While sometimes a thin staff is unavoidable, chaos should not be a routine feature. Pay attention to how staff behave. Are they engaged with patients? Do they have poor attitudes? Does important information travel between shift changes? 

Similarly, pay attention to your loved one interacting with the staff. Statements like, “I don’t want _____ to care for me,” should be taken seriously, even if your loved one has cognitive issues. They should never feel nervous or uncomfortable around a staff member. 

Personal Injury Attorneys Who Fight for Your Family

It’s important for families to know that while the dangers of nursing homes are real, you have options. And most importantly, your loved ones deserve adequate and attentive care. Nursing home patients and their families have rights. 

Our job is to fight for them. 

Our experienced team of personal injury attorneys have fought for families like yours for 25 years. Our firm is built around dedication, hard work, and commitment to doing what’s right. And above all, we treat every client with the same care and attentiveness we would treat our own loved ones, because when you’re fighting through a difficult time, you deserve nothing less. If you need to speak with an attorney about your options, schedule your free consultation today.

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Bob Giroux

Bob Giroux's Bio

Bob has been a litigation attorney for over 24 years. He is a Super Lawyer and has received, from Martindale, Hubbell, an AV Preeminent rating, the highest rating obtainable in both proficiency and ethics. Bob Giroux is a true litigator and trial attorney that has worked both sides of the courtroom and has personally been involved in over 100 trials.