Signs of Abuse or Neglect YOU Need to Know

If you have a loved one in a nursing home, what should you be watching for? It’s a fair question and one not everyone knows the answer to. Here is a list of some important things you should watch for:
1. Is the nursing home staff responsive to you and your loved one? If the answer is no while you are there, then you can bet that the staff is paying even less attention when you are not there.
2. Is your loved one clean? Nurses’ Aides are there to help your loved one complete their ADLs (activities of daily living), that includes bathing, combing hair, nails, brushing teeth, denture care, etc.
3. Is your loved one moved and repositioned? If your loved one can get out of bed, then they should be up and around. If your loved one is bed bound, then they should be turned and repositioned regularly (every two hours) to help avoid bed sores (pressure ulcers).
4. Does the staff help your loved one eat and drink? If the food tray is left untouched, that is a sign that your loved one is not getting the encouragement they need to eat. If the water pitcher is out of reach, how can your loved one get the hydration he or she needs?
5. Are call bells answered timely? If you have to wait for more than a few minutes for a call bell, you need to address the problem. Many nursing homes take 10 minutes, 15 minutes, or even longer to answer call bells. What if your loved one has an urgent need? What if they need help getting to the bathroom? If the nursing staff is unresponsive, or if there’s simply insufficient numbers of staff to care for all of the nursing home’s patients, then you need to take action. Talk to the Director of Nursing, the Administrator, or the Ombudsman. In West Virginia, you can also call OHFLAC (the Office of Healthcare Facility and Licensure) at 1-800-442-2888. If you suspect abuse or neglect and you don’t get the responsiveness you need, call an attorney.
6. Has your loved one lost weight or does he/she look dried out? Again, these are signs and symptoms of dehydration or malnutrition.
7. Does your loved one have skin breakdown in the form of a bed sore, pressure ulcer, or decubitus ulcer? If so, follow up and make sure it is aggressively treated. This includes turning, repositioning, and adequate food and water and supplements. It may also require a specialty mattress or cushions. The greasy wheel gets the grease, and your loved one needs the attention. Also, take pictures of the wound, but only do so when the wound dressing is going to be changed. In other words, don’t remove the dressing yourself to look at the wound. Instead, find out when the wound nurse will be changing the dressing and ask to take pictures.
8. Find out if your loved one needs assistance for movement. If he or she requires a two person assist, then make sure two people are there if your loved one is moved. Obviously, you cannot be there all the time, but pay attention when you are there.
9. Investigate bruises or other injuries that are unexplained. Abuse is real, and it does happen. Be wary and watch for any signs or symptoms of abuse.
** If you have questions or concerns about your loved one – call Dave Goddard or Eddie Wagoner at Goddard & Wagoner – 304-623-HELP (4357) or email