There is a risk that any elderly person who goes into a nursing home could be a victim of neglect or abuse. For many, the signs are minimal or could be covered up by stating that their problems are linked to old age or medical conditions they live with.
As someone who has a loved one in a nursing home, it’s important for you to watch for red flags signaling that nursing home abuse or neglect are taking place.
Dehydration and malnutrition: Often minimized signs of neglect or abuse
Two signs of abuse that some people overlook is dehydration or malnutrition. Someone may see a loved one is getting thinner and believe that their weight loss is linked to a medication or the inability to eat large portions because of age. They might think that dehydration is a result of a loved one not wanting to drink anything or be linked to a medication.
While there can be underlying causes of these conditions, it’s important to verify that your loved one is getting the support they need. Dehydration may be easily remedied by providing more opportunities to drink or by ordering intravenous fluids. Changing medications to help avoid diuretic side effects may be a possibility as well.
For malnutrition, it’s typical for a nursing home’s staff to keep track of patients’ weights and how much they’re eating. If your loved one is struggling to chew or eat food normally, other options should be provided. Smoothies, supplements and other options could help them get the vitamins and minerals they need each day.
It’s never appropriate for an elderly person to have their food or water restricted as a punishment. If they miss a meal, the staff should be bringing it to them. Their mobility and ability to get to a cafeteria or dining room should not limit their opportunity to eat.
What can you do if your loved one is malnourished or dehydrated?
In an emergency, call 911 to have them transported to a hospital for treatment. In other cases, it may be appropriate to address your concerns with the head nurse or nursing home director. If you believe abuse or neglect is at play, it may be time to move your loved one to a new facility and to look into your legal options.