A caregiver may face the overwhelming decision to place a loved one in a nursing home after a sudden event such as a fall or a stroke. Sometimes, there is more time to prepare, as in cases where the loved one suffers from a chronic or debilitating disease, including diseases where the patient is expected to deteriorate over time.
Once a loved one is safely tucked into a nursing home bed, a caregiver may feel a sense of relief. However, nursing home staff members are notoriously overburdened with the everyday tasks involved in caring for their elderly patients. Nonetheless, it is the responsibility of nursing home staff and management to ensure that each resident receives the care he or she needs.
Some signs of possible nursing home neglect that family members can look for include pain, foul odors, bruises, and weight loss. These symptoms may be evidence of a fall, inattentiveness to the resident’s diet and eating habits, inadequate help with hygiene, insufficient supervision, and bedsores.
Bedsores are clinically avoidable but common injuries suffered by nursing home patients. Bedsores may be referred to by health professionals as “pressure injuries.” Bedsores are wounds that develop from unrelieved pressure on the skin, combined with staff’s failure to intervene with appropriate nursing care. Climate, nutrition, blood flow, and other health and environmental conditions may affect the skin and soft-tissue’s tolerance and resilience. Often, bedsores result from an inability of the patient to move, turn over, or get out of bed so that they remain in one position for extended periods of time. The patient is therefore dependent on nursing staff to perform those functions.
Bedsores are classified in stages from stage one (redness and soreness) to stage four (a deep wound, reaching into muscle and bone). Adequate attention, including turning an immobile patient and providing nursing and medical care if a bedsore develops, is crucial to prevent the formation and progression of bedsores.
Health care workers in a nursing home should document a bedsore as soon as it appears to track possible progression and to ensure proper treatment. Medical or nursing care provided to the patient for a bedsore should be documented in the patient’s chart along with the time and date of any treatment provided and the physician or staff member’s name.
If a caregiver suspects nursing home neglect, or abuse, the state of New Jersey offers a new SafeCam program through which caregivers can borrow a camera to record the events that occur in a patient’s room. Such video footage, or photographs, can provide key evidence if nursing home staff fail to provide the requisite level of care. For example, pictures or video can provide evidence of the development and progression of a bedsore due to lack of adequate, responsive nursing care. Video footage can also indicate if a patient is not being moved often enough to prevent these pressure injuries.
What should a caregiver do if nursing home neglect, or abuse, is suspected?