Older adults are often incredibly vulnerable to mistreatment and abuse. Declining mental capacity combined with increasing physical fragility can make the elderly convenient targets for abusive people. If you have had to place a loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility, you likely took time to find one with a good reputation.
Unfortunately, care facilities are only as good as the people they employ. In some cases, desire to keep overhead low can result in understaffing or inadequate vetting for staff members. This can lead to situations where residents experience abuse. Lack of staff can also contribute to neglect, which is often as dangerous as overt abuse when it comes to medically vulnerable older people.
Recent neglect lawsuit showcases the dangers of neglect
The headlines for a recent story out of Georgia read like a synopsis for a horror movie. An older woman struggling with dementia went into a nursing home. She was a former WWII model and a mother. Her children believed she would receive good care, but she ended up dying due to an untreated infestation of scabies.
For those unfamiliar with scabies, they are tiny parasitic mites that burrow into human skin. They lay eggs down there and feed off the body of the host. Generally, this itchy and painful condition is treatable with medication and proper sanitation. However, the woman in this case did not receive treatment. Instead, she ended up dying.
Despite reporting a scabies outbreak to the state Department of Public Health, staff at the facility did nothing to diagnose or treat this woman's condition. Forensic analysis indicated that she died of an infection caused by severe infestation. Estimates indicate there may have been hundreds of millions of the bugs living on her body when she died.
Staff was aware to some degree of her condition, as they received instructions to not touch her hand, for fear the severe damage to her body would make it fall off. Her family is now suing the facility, although no amount of financial compensation can make up for the suffering of their mother over a period that may have been anywhere from a few months to over a year.
Older adults require protection from neglect
Just because you can't provide directly for the needs of an ailing loved one doesn't mean that you can't still advocate for good care. Look at staffing levels, cleanliness of the facility and the condition of your loved one every time you visit. Bed sores, parasites, infections or even bruising from falls could all be signs of neglect in a nursing home facility. You need to take action as soon as possible if you believe the facility caring for your loved one is not providing adequate care.