Far too often we see news reports of nursing home mental abuse in facilities across the country.  We have written other articles on how to prevent nursing home neglect, but how do you spot signs of nursing home mental abuse once you have chosen a facility?

While the signs and symptoms are many, common warning signs of nursing home neglect and mental abuse include:

  • Being isolated – nursing home staff limits or monitors contacts with other residents, or completely cuts the resident off from seeing others
  • Appearing frightened or afraid – for example, avoiding specific staff members or other residents
  • The presence of “chemicals restraints” – medications used or misused to control awareness or activity
  • Withdrawing from activities or visit from friends or family members.  Sometimes, a resident embarrassed by mental abuse and wants to avoid discussing it
  • Regressive behavior – for example, soiling without a medical cause
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Being afraid of touching or certain caregiving, such as changing clothes
  • Signs of restraint – such as rope marks on a resident’s wrists

These are all important factors to document and approach the management of the care facility right away.

If you feel that your concerns are not being met, there are several actions that can be taken to protect your loved one.

  • File a formal complaint with the facility, keeping a copy for yourself
  • Alert the resident’s primary care physician and schedule an assessment (note–if the primary care physician is also the facility’s medical director, you may want to consider an outside consultation).
  • File a formal complaint with the Ohio Department of Health. The Ohio Department of Health employs experienced investigators who will visit the facility and verify the complaint.
  • Contact the local ombudsman and provide her with copies of your complaints to the facility and the Ohio Department of Health.
  • Research other facilities and prepare to transfer your loved one to a new home.

Of course, the best defense against nursing home neglect and mental abuse is time spent with the resident.  Frequent visits by multiple family members, particularly visits that are unscheduled and occur at different hours of the day and night, help insure that the caregivers know they are being monitored by family.