Safety and Preventing Abuse and Neglect

We’ve learned that choosing the right facility for your loved one and his or her situation can mean a smooth transition and help prevent many problems, including abuse and neglect.  After you have researched several facilities, balanced your needs against your options, and made your decision, you must transform your role from that of “decision-maker” to “enforcer.”  Elder abuse can occur at any time and at even the best facilities, so it is important to be cognizant of the most effective methods to keep your family safe and avoid abuse. 

It is often said that “the best offense is a good defense.”  As you can easily imagine, the effects of elder abuse and neglect perpetrated at nursing homes and assisted living facilities (ALFs) are extremely damaging and far-reaching.  The are serious and life-threatening consequences when abuse happens, including:  malnutrition, denial of basic needs, falls, dispensing incorrect medications, depression, dehydration, sexual battery, decubitus ulcers (bed sores), and death. 

InjuryBoard has gathered the following to help you prevent elder abuse and maintain the safety of your loved ones. 

Visiting Your Loved Ones

The single best way to keep your family member healthy, safe and free from abuse is by visiting often.  Not only can your visits curb depression, increase positive feelings, and provide emotional support and entertainment for older adults, they can also keep you aware of their current situation. 

Visiting your loved one frequently and at different times serves to put the facility staff “on notice” that you are engaged and aware of your family’s condition.  If you visit your elder with regularity, the staff will come to expect your unexpected visits.  Consequently, the staff will be more inclined to treat the patient with respect and dignity for fear of a visitor dropping in unexpectedly and seeing his or her loved one mistreated. 

Facility staff members realize that a resident’s family member or friend who witnesses abuse or neglect of their loved one may become angry and report the facility to authorities.  And the facility administration and staff will often pay extra attention to patients who enjoy frequent visits. 

KEY STRATEGY – Keep the facility honest by making frequent and unpredictable visits.

Building Relationships and Communicating with Staff

While visiting a facility, you should actively build connections with the staff, making efforts to meet key nurses, managers, and even custodial help.  Learn the names of as many staff members as you can and help them make the connection between you and the resident you’re visiting.  Not every resident of nursing homes or ALFs have friends or family to advocate on their behalf. 

Your relationships with staff can serve several important purposes.  Naturally, you will be able to ask questions and find out what day-to-day life is like for your loved one as well as information about their particular care and well-being.  Conversely, the staff will feel more open to asking you questions about your loved one or volunteering information that may be of help.  Remember, opening these lines of communication can only benefit the facility resident. 

There are many things you can discuss with the staff, but part of what you share should definitely include any special conditions or preferences the patient may have, or particular personality considerations.  You can also tell the staff about your loved one’s hobbies, likes, dislikes, or habits.  Not only are you helping to create a more comfortable living situation for the resident by conveying to the facility staff that person’s preferences, you’re also helping the staff “humanize” them and see them as a person as well as a patient. 

A hidden but notable benefit of building rapport with facility staff is the increased ease with which a visitor can express concerns or ask questions regarding treatment.  Staff who regularly see and communicate with a visitor may be more inclined to respect that visitor’s concerns and act on the visitor’s complaints or recommendations.  The end result is better care for the patient. 

Don’t stop with the facility staff, however.  It can also be a tremendous benefit and a great advantage to forge relationships with other residents and their families.  Not only can these relationships help promote friendships for your loved ones, but they can also promote safety, as well.  When your loved one is well known, other residents and their families provide an extra set of eyes to watch over your loved one when you are not present. 

Perhaps the most significant thing to remember when forming a relationship with facility staff and administration is that no matter how close or how friendly you become, your first concern must always be for your loved one.  You should never be afraid to ask questions or expect the staff and administration to be accountable for their actions (or inactions) even if it makes for an uncomfortable situation.   You have a right to get the answers to your questions and make decisions based on accurate information.

  • CLICK HERE - for more tips to make your visits to a facility successful

KEY STRATEGY – Make efforts to form positive relationships with a facility's administrative and staff, as well as with other residents and their families.  Don't let these relationships keep from asking difficult questions about the facility or your loved one -- you have a right to demand all necessary information.

Read the next article:  How to Indentfy Elder Abuse and Neglect 

Contact an attorney in your area.