Lurking Behind the Veil: Piercing The Happy Facade of Nursing Homes

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While very few of us would immediately associate nursing homes with patients being happy and thriving, being accustomed to their negative portrayal across various forms of media, most nursing homes are doing everything they can to project an alternate reality. A reality where all of their staff members are attentive and kind, a reality where most (if not all) of their residents are thriving in their new environment, and one where the horrors depicted in media are a thing of the past if they ever existed at all.

There are nursing homes out there that are like this, thriving communities where the staff are heaven-sent angels, the patients are taking full advantage of the facilities and maintaining healthy lifestyles, and where nothing shady is happening behind the scenes. However, the much more common reality is that nursing homes (as well as other communal care facilities) tend to be hotbeds for abuse. The World Health Organization found that 2 out of 3 healthcare staff have self-reported committing some form of elder abuse and that roughly one out of six older adults is likely to experience elder abuse in some form.

Elder abuse is the specter that lurks in the background of every nursing home, a shadow out of time that can strike anywhere at any moment, even in the happiest-seeming of places. There’s no way to avoid the possibility of encountering it altogether, even with the most thorough research; the only way to properly deal with it is to be able to recognize the signs that it is occurring and to be prepared to take proper action should your older adult be suffering.

Without further ado, here are some of the most common signs of elder abuse that you and your loved ones should keep an eye out for.

Hostile or Cruel Staff Members

Everyone has bad days, and nursing home staff are no different. With the profession being one of the most chronically understaffed and overworked in the country, it’s more than possible that your loved one’s nurse may snap at someone else or give off an unapproachable air one day. However, patterns are everything, and if you notice that a particular staff member seems rude to patients on a regular basis, or even that your older adult or others in the home seem to be afraid or angry at a particular staff member, some investigation may be warranted.

Remember, when it comes to identifying the causes of elder abuse, the subtler signs are always of great significance. Your loved one may be trying to tell you who their abuser is through their body language or their reactions to particular staff members. Pay attention to your older adult, and you’ll find that you’ll be able to discern if there’s any misconduct occurring behind the scenes.

Recurring Accidents or Unexplained Injuries

Part of the patient experience that your older adult’s nursing home is responsible for is making sure that their environment is safe and hazard-free, limiting the possibilities for any kind of physically damaging accident. While nobody can eliminate the possibility that your loved one will fall and hurt themselves altogether, nursing homes are responsible for taking steps to prevent accidents, whether it’s with wheelchair safety or falls, therefore, if your loved one is having the same accident over and over again, or is having multiple accidents of different kinds, at best your nursing home may be negligent. At worst, your older adult may be being physically abused, and your nursing home may be attempting to cloak what’s occurring to avoid a lawsuit.

Signs of Neglect

Another part of that patient experience that nursing homes are responsible for is making sure their needs are met and that healthy habits are maintained. Suppose you notice that your older adult’s hygiene isn’t being taken care of, that they’re developing bedsores from staying in bed all day, or that they’re developing unhealthy eating or sleeping habits. In that case, you may want to look into your nursing home’s schedule for them and see if they’re living up to their duty. Remember, neglect is a form of abuse and one that nursing homes need to be held accountable to; entrusting them with the care of your older adult is no small matter, and failing to deliver on their promises to you can cause significant harm.

Not everyone has the ability to avoid the nursing home outright; some have limitations that are very difficult to treat at home. As such, prepare yourself for the worst by getting an idea of the many forms that elder abuse can take and becoming prepared to recognize them in case the worst occurs when you aren’t around.