Protect Elderly Loved Ones in Nursing Homes
November 17, 2020

How Can I Keep My Loved One Safe in a Nursing Home?

Moving an elderly loved one into a nursing home comes with a range of emotions. On the one hand, staff at the facility can give dedicated, round-the-clock care that many families can’t provide on their own. On the other hand, it is not uncommon for family members to feel a mixture of guilt and fear at the prospect of letting strangers care for their loved one.

The best way to overcome the fear of moving a relative into a nursing home is to stay involved. Any reputable nursing home should encourage families to be a part of their loved one’s lives and the care they receive. If you suspect your loved one is not receiving proper care or they are in danger, however, it is important to take action.

The nursing home abuse lawyers at Studinski Law, LLC have extensive experience representing seniors and families in claims against negligent care facilities throughout Wisconsin. For a free case evaluation, please call (715) 343-2850 today.

You may also want to order a free copy of our book, How to Keep Your Loved One Safe in a Wisconsin Nursing Home.

Tips to Protect Nursing Home Residents from Abuse and Neglect

It is natural to be apprehensive about placing your loved one in even the most highly rated, well-regarded facility. Even when professional help is in their best interest, the instinct to “take care of your own” is difficult to overcome.

Both before your loved one is admitted to a nursing home and after they have moved in, there are a number of steps you can take to keep them safe:

1. Choose the Best Nursing Home for Your Loved One

Nursing home safety begins with finding the right facility. This process involves visiting nursing homes, asking the right questions, and performing your own research on each facility.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Division of Quality Assurance offers a Provider Search tool you can use to view the licensure and certification of facilities, as well as complaints against the facility and statements of deficiency. The federal government also offers a tool to compare area nursing homes that you may be considering. 

As you visit different nursing homes, it is important to ask questions about how family members can be involved in a relative’s care. You also want to make sure the facility is equipped to handle your loved one’s specific medical needs (read about the types of care facilities in Wisconsin), as well as its certification through Medicare and Medicaid.

On-site visits are also an excellent opportunity to observe the residents, staff, and conditions at the facility. Ultimately, your goal is to make sure the nursing home is right for your loved one’s needs and your peace of mind.

2. Visit the Facility Often

It is a sad reality that some nursing home residents do not receive regular visitors. What’s worse, these seniors are the ones most likely to experience neglect or suffer abuse.

With this in mind, being a part of a loved one’s life is often the first step toward protecting them in a nursing home. Regular visits give you the opportunity to see for yourself what the nursing home is like and discuss with your relative all aspects of living in the facility, including:

  • The comfort and cleanliness of residents’ rooms and the facility as a whole
  • The quality and nutrition of the food
  • The safety of the facility and the grounds
  • The schedule of activities and other leisure opportunities
  • The attitude and competence of the staff
  • Your loved one’s interactions with other residents, as well as the health and well-being of the residents themselves

Visiting a loved one in the nursing home is also crucial for making sure they are getting the medical and hygiene attention they need. Without timely intervention, issues such as bedsores, illnesses, infections, malnutrition and/or dehydration, and injuries may go undetected, increasing the risk of serious complications.

3. Be Unpredictable in Your Visits

People are creatures of habit. If they are doing something wrong, they are likely to stop and cover their tracks if they expect someone to arrive at a certain time and date.

Therefore, it is important to vary the hours and days that you visit your loved one in the nursing home. Abusive members of staff are less likely to victimize your loved one if a). you are a consistent presence at the facility and b). they don’t know when to expect you.

Nursing homes are not allowed to impose visiting hours, so family members can come at the resident’s convenience. However, residents do have the right to refuse visitors. If your loved one suddenly stops taking visitors, you are left with a dilemma: Your relative may be in trouble and acting under duress, or the decision could result from genuine wishes stemming from changes in your loved one’s physical energy, mental acuity, and/or medical condition.

With all of this in mind, it is also important for families with loved ones in nursing homes to…

4. Be Aware of the Resident’s Condition

The process of aging can come with a number of challenges. Over time, seniors may experience limited mobility, loss of physical function, impaired cognition, and behavioral shifts. Their health may also decline as the immune system becomes less effective at fighting illnesses.

Although it is difficult to see these changes in our loved ones, knowing their needs is crucial for ensuring their safety and well-being in a nursing home. Physical and mental deficits may naturally progress over time, but a sudden, unexplained change for the worse may indicate neglect or abuse.

Throughout your loved one’s time in a nursing home or other care facility, it is crucial for you to be aware of their condition. The nursing home staff should keep you involved in your relative’s care; if they don’t, you may need to take action to see that your loved one’s health, safety, and rights are protected.

5. If You Suspect Something, Say Something

If you feel that your loved one is not getting the best care or is suffering neglect or mistreatment, do not hesitate to take action. Your first step is to bring your concerns to the management of the nursing home.

The facility in which your loved one resides may have a manager or administrator for each floor or unit. Start by talking to the person who directly supervises the staff who cares for your relative. If the manager doesn’t take appropriate action, you may need to speak to upper management or the lead administrator of the nursing home.

If you are dissatisfied with the facility’s response, you can file a complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Division of Quality Assurance. Complaints are investigated confidentially, so your name and that of your loved one will not be disclosed to the nursing home.

If you believe your loved one is in immediate danger, call 911. Emergency medical workers can determine if your relative needs to be taken to the hospital, while the police can investigate any wrongdoing by members of the nursing home staff.

Finally, you should contact a nursing home abuse lawyer to discuss your loved one’s rights and the rights of your family. An experienced lawyer can advise you of the legal options that may be available for recovering compensation in cases of abuse and neglect.

Learn How Our Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Can Help

For seniors and their families, the transition to a nursing home can be difficult. This is true at any time, but the COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for nursing homes and other care facilities that make families justifiably concerned for the health and safety of aged relatives.

Regardless of the circumstances, nursing home residents have rights, and family members can help protect them. If you believe your loved one is suffering neglect or abuse in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or other care center, Studinski Law, LLC can help you and your family.

Please call (715) 343-2850 today for a free case evaluation. Our nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers serve clients in Plover, Marshfield, and areas throughout Wisconsin.

Jason Studinski Injury Attorney
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