Nursing Home Neglect vs. Abuse
Nursing home neglect is a type or subsection of nursing home or elder abuse, and neglect occurs when a resident received inadequate or poor care because of someone else’s breach of duty. While many people only believe that nursing home abuse refers solely to physical injuries, neglect is a type of abuse as well. In this article, we will discuss the common types of nursing home neglect, the causes of such neglect, and how you can report instances of nursing home neglect (or abuse) in Connecticut.
What Causes Nursing Home Neglect?
Nursing home neglect can be the result of various issues, including but not limited to:
- Inadequate staffing. During the pandemic, about 20% of nursing homes throughout the U.S. reported that were understaffed. Unfortunately, a 2021 study by The American Health Care Association (AHCA) and National Center for Assisted Living (NACL) found that about 75% of nursing homes and 60% of assisted living centers have had their overall workforce situation get worse since 2020. According to this study, 94% of nursing homes and 71% of assisted living communities said that they were experiencing staffing issues (i.e. shortages). Residents of care facilities have a higher risk of suffering from malnutrition, weight loss, dehydration, infections, and other common symptoms of neglect.
- Negligent hiring. Nursing homes may not run adequate background checks or require necessary certifications when hiring staff, which puts residents at risk of being abused and/or neglected. Negligent hiring of administrators or board member appointments can also be dangerous and lead to negligence.
- Inadequate training. Staff should receive training and should maintain their certifications to ensure they can offer residents the minimum level of acceptable care. Legally, staff at Connecticut residential care homes and assisted living centers are required to participate in and complete an orientation program (that explains safety and emergency procedures, residents’ rights or other applicable regulations and laws, facility policies, etc.) as well as continuing education programs (for a minimum amount of hours each year).
Six Common Types of Nursing Home Neglect
Nursing home neglect is more common than many people think. Here are the most common types of neglect that nursing home residents may experience.
- Social/emotional neglect. Residents should be encouraged and allowed to participate in social activities and interact with other residents and visitors. If they are prevented from participating, ignored by staff, or left alone without the ability to get to social activity, that is neglect. Those with physical or mental disabilities are often at a greater risk of suffering from this form of neglect as they may need help moving or interacting with other people.
- Self-neglect. While self-neglect refers to instances where an elder refuses help/assistance when they are unable to care for themselves, nursing homes can play a part in self-neglect as it is the staff’s duty to prevent residents from neglecting their needs.
- Neglect of personal hygiene. Residents should have access to proper medical and dental care, bathing and laundry facilities, and other services that help ensure they maintain their personal hygiene. However, some facilities allow residents to sit in soiled clothes or sheets for long periods and/or neglect their hygienic needs, which is a form of neglect.
- Neglect of basic needs. Nursing home residents should be provided with food, water, and a clean and safe living environment. If these basic needs are not met, they can suffer from dehydration or malnutrition, and in instances of an unsafe environment, they are at risk of becoming a victim/survivor of theft, assault, or other physical threats.
- Medical neglect. If a resident has health issues and thus certain medical needs that are not treated or addressed, that is medical neglect.
- Abandonment. This type of neglect occurs when an elderly person or resident is either removed from a facility or their home or left to take care of themselves (without proper resources and/or when they need help). For instance, a resident may be kicked out of a facility unlawfully to make room for other patients or because of their behavior; in another case, a nursing home resident may be abandoned by staff if they do not check on them and leave them to their own devices for days.
Signs of Elder Neglect
In a 2020 survey, 12% of nursing home staff reported that they had neglected residents, and according to the National Center for Victims of Crimes, of the elder abuse complaints submitted, 15.3% are reports of neglect. If you have a loved one living in a care facility, the following may be signs they are experiencing neglect.
- Bedsores or pressure ulcers
- Broken bones
- Changes in personality or demeanor
- Depression or other mental health concerns
- Personal hygiene issues
- Untreated medical conditions
- Weight loss (significant)
- Other unexplained health issues or injuries
How to Report Nursing Home Neglect in Connecticut
If you or a loved one are suffering from neglect, you can submit a complaint to the Department of Public Health. Complaints can be submitted online or by calling 806-509-7400. You will need the following information when completing a submission.
- Your name and contact information
- The names and contact information of any other persons with whom you have submitted a complaint (i.e. police, nursing home administration, etc.)
- Details concerning the type of abuse as well as if you told the facility (and if they took action)
- The facility information
Once a complaint is submitted, you should be given a confirmation number that can be used to follow up on the complaint. The Connecticut Department of Public Health staff should review your concerns promptly and determine the best course of action if abuse or neglect is occurring.
How to Prevent Nursing Home Neglect
While the nursing home facility and staff have a duty to protect residents and offer the minimum level of acceptable care, you can also protect your loved ones and prevent nursing home neglect by:
- Touring facilities before moving your loved one into the home. You may notice red flags or concerning behavior in staff or residents during a tour. You can also take the opportunity to speak with residents and their families as well as staff face-to-face to ask questions about the facility policies, the living situation (as the family and residents), and other important details.
- Visiting and/or contacting loved ones frequently. Not only will you see evidence of inadequate care or neglect the more you visit but you can also discourage staff from neglecting your loved one as they know you will notice.
- Knowing the signs of abuse or neglect. By being aware of the warning signs of nursing home neglect, you are prepared and know what to look for.
- Listening to your loved ones. If your loved one confides in you concerning instances of neglect, believing them and investigating or reporting it is important. Failing to take their complaint seriously can be discouraging, and they may not speak up or share with you again.
During your tour or investigation of a facility, you should ensure they have the following measures in place to help prevent nursing home neglect.
- Adequate staffing and training. As we mentioned, understaffing and a lack of training often lead to neglect, so it is important that you ask what training and education opportunities and requirements staff have.
- Criminal record/background checks. During their hiring process, nursing home facilities should not only extensively interview applicants but should also conduct a background check to better eliminate candidates who are a risk to residents.
- Flexible care plans. Assisted living and nursing home facilities should have procedures for personalizing a resident’s care plan to better address a resident’s individual healthcare and social needs.
- Proper visitation allowances. You should be wary of facilities that often turn away visitors or restrict visiting hours. While it is normal for middle-of-the-night visits to be possibly denied, you should be able to regularly check in on your loved one.
- Reporting regulations. You should ask how the facility ensures that its staff and residents know the procedure for reporting abuse or neglect.
When Can You Sue for Nursing Home Neglect in CT?
If you or a loved one suffered injury and/or damages because of neglect, you can pursue compensation by filing a personal injury suit. In Connecticut, a personal injury suit for nursing home neglect must be filed within two years of the injury or its discovery.
At Zayas Law Firm, our attorneys have over 45 years of collective experience, and our firm is committed to helping our clients fight for their right to compensation. Known for providing thorough, personalized, and aggressive representation, we work on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay us unless we help you recover compensation. Once you retain our services, we can help you:
- Understand your legal rights and options
- Establish liability for the neglect
- Gather evidence that supports your claim
- Handle the case legalities