No one wants to leave the care of parents in the hands of others, but it might be in their best interests. You may not be able to provide day and night care while holding a full-time job. The reports about abuse in nursing homes in Pennsylvania typically exacerbate the concern about the well-being of vulnerable parents.
However, if you are a persistent observer and advocate for the welfare of your parents, you can protect them from harm. This starts with discussing the care plan with the Director of Nursing of the facility and taking away a copy of that plan. In most cases, professional caregivers appreciate attentive family members with whom they can establish positive rapports instead of having to defend themselves against disapproval and negative attitudes that typically alienate them.
How can you be vigilant in monitoring the care of your parents?
If you have a copy of the care plan, frequent visits will allow you to observe caregivers and make sure they follow the plan. You can also include the following in your vigilant monitoring of the welfare of your parents:
- Care plan: Discuss the plan of care with the nursing staff at regular intervals to ensure compliance. Make sure you are up to date, and approve, of any changes made to it.
- Dehydration: If you pinch the skin on your parent's forehead and the crease does not disappear immediately, it might indicate dehydration, and so can a dry mouth and lips. An empty water pitcher can show that water is not readily available.
- Weight loss: Time your visits to coincide with mealtimes to see what is on the plate and whether the staff provides the necessary assistance. The calves and upper arms will clearly show weight loss, and you can monitor recorded weekly weights to pick up on significant changes.
- Bedsores: Pressure sores are some of the first signs of neglect, and they typically develop on the elbows, heels, coccyx area, and other body parts that rest on the bed or chair. Apply pressure on any areas that show redness. If it does not blanch or turn white, it might indicate the start of a bed sore.
- Prevention of pressure sores: Limited mobility causes bedsores, and frequent turning or repositioning of the patient can prevent it. You can also ask staff to support high-risk body parts or areas with appropriate cushioning and padding.
- Physical therapy: Check that physical and other therapy sessions follow arranged schedules, and you could even attend some of the sessions to observe the type of treatment and note the progress -- if any.
- Toileting: Monitor toileting problems and the availability of staff assistance to pick up any signs of incontinence early. If they wear adult diapers, make sure that it is not merely a convenience, and also check for signs of rashes and reddened and irritated skin that can indicate neglect in frequent changing of wet diapers.
- Activity participation: Monitor the posting of available activities and whether caregivers encourage participation. Make sure that they provide the necessary assistance to allow participation.
What recourse do you have if you suspect nursing home neglect?
If you are persistent in advocating and observing the care of your parents during frequent visits, you will likely notice signs of abuse or neglect early. If you do, there is no time to waste. Your first step would be to report it to the Director of Nursing at the facility. However, if the issue is not promptly rectified, you can seek legal counsel. A Pennsylvania law firm with board-certified trial specialists can hold the nursing home and its staff accountable for abuse, neglect and medical negligence.