When we realize our parents need help around the home, we set out to find a retirement home or an in home care provider that can offer the appropriate eldercare services and assistance they require at a reasonable cost. Sometimes, a service we hire with our best intentions turns out to be a poor match for mom and dad. Learn to recognize the signs of bad eldercare immediately so your parents will continue to thrive into their golden years.
Know What Signs To Look For
If you suspect that mom or dad may not be getting proper care from their nursing home or home health service, there are a few signs you can look for, without having to ask your parents invasive questions, that are red flags for neglect and outright abuse:
- Bedsores or stiffened muscles. A bed-ridden senior needs to have their position changed and their muscles exercised regularly to prevent this kind of atrophy, and if you notice these physical signs, you know the staff isn’t paying enough attention to your parents care.
- Irritability or lethargy, weight loss, and dry or cracked lips. These are all symptoms of malnutrition and dehydration—conditions which can become life-threatening if left untreated.
- Listlessness, glassy eyes, or drowsiness. These three symptoms can be signs of overmedication—which could indicate that an untrained staff is improperly managing prescriptions or that your parents are being chemically sedated.
- Confusion, anxiety, or apathy. A sudden change in personality or temperament can indicate emotional abuse or neglect.
Of course, many seniors won’t sit idly by while their caregivers ignore or mistreat them. If mom and dad can tell that they aren’t getting the treatment they are paying for, you’ll probably hear about it:
- Caretakers being rough with them
- Verbal or physical abuse
- Staff not attending to personal needs in a timely manner
- Being forced to take medications their doctor has not prescribed
If our parent confides in you about a situation that may have made them feel uncomfortable, take the allegation seriously and investigate these claims.
Become Your Parent's Advocate
Remember, in many cases, you are your parent's number one advocate.
While rarely malicious in nature, neglect still requires immediate intervention, so don't delay if you suspect that any of these circumstances may be affecting your loved one's welfare. Your parent's safety and wellbeing may ultimately depends on you speaking up to ensure they get the care they need.
In some cases, that may simply mean discussing the situation with professional caregivers. Be kind, yet firm. To lead in, stay neutral, "I know dad can be sensitive sometimes, but he’s been upset lately, is there any other way we approach this situation?"
Discuss concerns in the same manner with administrators or managers so that the situation can be documented. Being clear, honest and neutral will help keep channels open for internal resolution while still ensuring that the issue has been recorded.
If talking gets you nowhere, start making phone calls.
The Department of Health and Human Services Division of Aging suggests that you contact Adult Protective Services in your area if your loved one is not under immediate duress. If you’re worried that serious abuse or neglect is taking place, whether in a home care setting or at a nursing home, call 911 for an immediate intervention and then contact Adult Protective Services.
Be Prepared When You Place Your Call
When you make your calls, be prepared to tell the operator your loved one's name, address and contact information. You may also be asked details about what type of social or direct family support is available, if there are any known medical conditions including memory loss or confusion, and whether you have personally witnessed abusive behavior.
As most family caregivers rarely personally witness abuse behavior directly, but suspect their occurrence based on observation of particular signs or symptoms, be ready to describe these observations to their fullest extent so a fair investigation takes place to ensure the future safety of your loved one and other persons.
The bottom line is that if you suspect neglect, investigate then take action.