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3 signs of nursing home neglect

One of the most emotional decisions you will make in your lifetime is placing your elderly parent in a nursing home. Choosing a nursing home that fits your parent's needs can be an overwhelming decision. Will he or she be happy there? Will the staff take good care of them? After researching what to look for in a nursing home, you make the decision and feel comfortable with it. You put your faith and trust in the nursing home and staff to have your parent's best interests at heart.

In the back of your mind, however, you know that nursing home abuse and neglect is an unfortunate reality. You hope the nursing home you chose for your parent does not have this issue. Since you're not there all the time, it's hard to tell. There are red flags to look for and several signs that may tell you that your loved one is not safe or being taken care of as you'd hoped.

Here are three signs of nursing home abuse or neglect:

1) Your parent does not physically appear as clean as he or she used to: when you visit, does it appear your parent is not getting help brushing their hair, clipping their nails or brushing their teeth? Does it seem they are not getting a bath regularly? Are they wearing the same clothes every time you visit, indicating that no one is helping them get dressed? Nursing home staff needs to help residents maintain basic personal hygiene, and neglecting that is a form of abuse. When your parent is not able to do these things on his or her own, it is imperative a staff member takes care of them in doing so. Poor personal hygiene can affect your parent's health. Learn about the schedule for bathing and other personal hygiene, and watch to see if staff follows through on it.

2) Your parent seems weaker and less energetic than usual: if nursing home staff are neglecting to provide enough food and hydration for your parent, they can suffer from malnutrition and dehydration. This will leave them physically weak. Does your parent need assistance in feeding him or herself, and could it be that staff are not taking the time to do so? Unfortunately, approximately 20 percent of nursing home residents around the world suffered from malnutrition, according to research published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information. If your parent suffers from depression or has physical symptoms that make it difficult to eat, staff should be taking extra care to make sure your parent gets the nutrition he or she needs and deserves.

3) Your parent is showing new signs of emotional distress: When the people who are supposed to care for your parent fail to do so, or worse - harm your parent, they may show an array of emotions ranging from anger and resentment to sadness and despair. They may become fearful of the nursing home staff. Does it seem your parent is hesitant to talk about staff and the nursing home to you? Do they seem withdrawn and more reserved than usual? Of course, in an adjustment period to newly living in a nursing home, your parent can display a wide array of emotions. It's important to tell the difference between emotions that are normal during an adjustment period, and signs that something is wrong and your parent is neglected or abused.

As Minnesota's population ages, more and more people are faced with the decision of placing their parent in a nursing home. All you want when you do this is peace of mind. Your parent deserves fair treatment and quality care. If you suspect your parent or loved one is being mistreated, abused or neglected in a nursing home, an elder law attorney can help make things right again. It's not only about the possibility that the nursing home is breaking the law, but more importantly, it's about making sure your parent has the best quality of life possible.

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