How to Help Your Loved One Who Lives in a Nursing Home

Children, parents, and seniors themselves have many concerns about moving into a nursing home. There are many pros and cons. On the plus side, living in a nursing home should include better health arrangements, companionship, and safety. On the other hand, moving into a nursing home means a loss of independence, and for many residents it can mean abuse and isolation.

A list of practical recommendations

When a nursing home resident is being abused – physically, emotionally, sexually, or financially – family and friends should seek legal protection for their loved one. If a resident is hurt because the nursing home negligently failed to provide safety measures such as fall protection, the family and resident have the right to file a personal injury claim against the nursing home and/or staff members.

The best remedies are the ones that reduce the dangers of abuse and neglect. Families, including the residents, should understand their rights. They should develop a plan to choose the right nursing home and to monitor how well the resident is doing one he/she moves into the home.

US News has the following suggestions:

  • Understand the role of the ombudsman. The National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource (NORC), which is funded by the Administration on Aging, provides assistance to many state and local ombudsman. These local programs investigate complaints about nursing homes. They also provide assistance to consumers about choosing the right nursing home and following-up on their care. The main complaints NORC and local agencies handle are:
    • Complaints about eviction and discharge – often due to the need to get a medical assessment at a hospital or because the home says it can’t meet the patient’s needs.
    • Complaints that the nursing home isn’t responding to requests for assistance
    • Complaints about “staff attitudes” – such as not treating the senior or resident with respect and dignity
  • Review infection risk procedures. A major concern is the risk of infection from “multidrug-resistant gram-negative bacteria.” According to the CDC, this bacteria can cause MDR-GNB infections which are hard to treat – even resulting in hospitalizations and deaths. Nursing homes need to place a priority on washing their hands and having someone in charge of infection control. Families should ask about how the nursing home is handling this common problem.
  • Children and families should place a priority on visiting their loved ones as many times as possible. It helps to vary the times of the visit (weekends/weekdays, daytime/evenings) to get a better of how the loved one is being treated by different staff members.
  • Review inspection reports. Nursing homes are required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to do inspections about once a year. Generally, consumers should be able to see the inspection reports for the prior three years. Families and seniors should review these reports before they move in and while senior is living in the nursing home.
  • Concerns about abuse. Families should look for signs of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse such as isolation, bedsores, and malnutrition. A trusted family member should also review the financial accounts with/or of the senior. Signs of abuse should be discussed with an attorney as soon as possible so the abuse can stop, the resident can be compensated, and so other residents aren’t abused.
  • Medication usage. Families should look for signs of overmedication – especially patients with dementia.
  • Understand the nursing home residents’ bill of rights. Nursing homes that receive federal aid (most do) must provide their residents with a written bill of rights. These rights include the right to be treated with dignity, the right to self-determination, the right to be free from abuse or neglect, the right to socialize, and other rights.

Nursing homes must establish an official grievance procedure and respond to complaints in writing. If complaints aren’t handled properly, loved ones can then contact a state or local agency, such as the health department, or the available ombudsman program.

Residents, family, and friends should also speak with experienced nursing home lawyers who can explain their rights and remedies including when legal action can be brought.

At Mezrano Law Firm, we’ve been fighting for the injured and abused for a combined 40 years. We’re experienced at holding nursing homes to their duty of putting residents first. We demand that seniors be treated with the respect, dignity, and personal safety they’ve earned. To learn what rights your loved one has when any type of abuse or neglect happens, please call us today at 205-206-6300 or complete our contact form. We represent seniors and families from our offices in Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Mobile, Montgomery, Florence, and Gadsden.