In the last year, approximately one in six people aged 60 or older have suffered from some form of abuse in a community setting, such as a nursing home or assisted living facility. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rates of elder abuse have increased, and experts believe nursing home abuse rates will continue to increase globally as many countries have aging populations. In this article, we will discuss red flags (i.e. warning signs) of possible neglect or abuse you should be mindful of when you visit a nursing home.
13 Red Flags to Look for When Choosing or Visiting a Nursing Home
Whether you’re visiting a nursing home or care facility to decide whether the facility is the right fit for a loved one or to see a loved one currently residing in a home, you should take note of the condition of the facility and the resident’s interactions and mood. Specifically, you should look for the following red flags during your tour, visit, or research.
- Bad odors. If you smell urine, vomit, or other odors, that may be a red flag that signal that the staff does not adequately or promptly clean the facility or residents who have soiled themselves.
- Complaints or bad reviews. You should not only look out for bad reviews on Google, Yelp, and other websites but should also review the annual state survey and copies of complaint investigations (which you can find here). If the nursing home has a lot of poor reviews or complaints that led to investigations, that could be a red flag.
- Delayed response times. When residents make a request or express a need, be mindful of how long it takes staff to respond or whether they respond at all. If there is a long response time or no response, that may be a sign that the staff-to-resident ratio is low or that the staff is not as attentive as they should be. Also, look at the call lights on residents’ doors as this can also help you determine response time.
- Dirty rooms. Residential and common area rooms should be clean. It is a red flag if you notice overflowing trash cans, unmade beds, abandoned food trays, or items and trash that are thrown around and left out.
- High rate of COVID-19-related deaths or infections. If a facility receives funding from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, its staff must be vaccinated. Even if a nursing home does not receive this type of funding or requires staff to be vaccinated, you should look into or ask how many patients have suffered from COVID-19, whether staff and visitors must wear masks, how often the facility has been quarantined, whether a majority of the staff and residents have been vaccinated, and how high-risk residents are treated. While staff members are not required to provide you with these answers, you may be able to get some information if you make the questions open-ended. Getting answers to these questions can give you insight into how the nursing home’s policies have changed and how the staff has responded and learned from their mistakes during the pandemic. A red flag would be if they have a high number of deaths and illnesses and have failed to adequately respond to this threat.
- High turnover rates. If nursing home staff and management are constantly being turned over, that can affect the quality and consistency of care that residents receive. This can also mean that the nursing home is short-staffed and/or hiring temporary or underqualified staff members, which is a red flag.
- Lack of abuse prevention policies. The facility should have an established complaint policy and process concerning abuse and neglect. They should also have an abuse prevention program for staff members and residents.
- Lack of activities. Nursing homes should take steps to engage residents in activities and events throughout the day. If you notice residents still in bed in the late morning or see that activities (i.e. exercise class, faith-based services or activities, entertainment, etc.) are not often offered, you should consider that a bad sign. If residents are isolated or not allowed to enjoy themselves and build connections, they may be suffering from emotional neglect in the facility.
- Low-quality food. During your visit, pay attention to the food that is served at the nursing home. While you shouldn’t always expect a four-course meal made by a Michelin star chef, you should expect residents to be fed quality and healthy food. Poor food quality can be a red flag as it can affect your loved one’s health and nutrition.
- Poor visiting policy. Another nursing home red flag is that a facility does not have a good visiting policy. If the facility does not allow for unscheduled visits or has inflexible visiting hours, that may mean that they are understaffed or have something else to hide. It is important to note, however, that visiting hours should be during appropriate hours. A facility that doesn’t allow visitors at 2:30 a.m. or the middle of the night is to be expected.
- Unfriendly staff. In a good nursing home or assisted living facility, you will notice that staff interact with residents in a friendly and caring manner. If the residents do not speak when staff enters a room or their interactions seem awkward or stiff, that may be a red flag. Also, take note of how the staff treats you and other visitors.
- Unresponsive residents. As we’ve mentioned, understaffing is a red flag. Some facilities with staffing issues may overmedicate or sedate residents if they do not have the time or personnel to address challenging residents or behaviors. During your visit, pay attention to how responsive residents are.
- Unsecure location. Residents should have access to safe, quality outdoor spaces. However, if the facility is in an unsafe neighborhood, that may be a red flag, especially if there is not adequate security or gates.
You have the right to expect quality care for yourself or a loved one. If you suspect or suffer from nursing home abuse, you should not only report the abuse to the police or Adult Protective Services but should also reach out to our firm. At The Wiseman Law Firm, our attorney has over two decades of legal experience and is equipped to help victims of nursing home abuse pursue compensation.
Schedule a case consultation today by telephoning (407) 708-9127 or completing our online contact form.