SWODA provides tips on recognizing abuse and neglect in nursing homes

posted Feb 19, 2014, 3:48 PM by Mary Peck

Nursing home residents have the right to protection from criminal acts, which includes abuse and neglect. Caregivers, friends and family need to know the signs of abuse and neglect to help in identifying possible problems. South Western Oklahoma Development Authority (SWODA) Ombudsman Supervisor Samantha Walker shares examples of what to watch for when you have a family member or friend in a nursing facility.

 The law requires nursing homes to have intervention strategies and regular monitoring to prevent abuse and neglect. According to the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, all residents in nursing homes are entitled to receive quality care and live in an environment that improves or maintains the quality of their physical and mental health. This includes freedom from abuse, neglect and misappropriation of funds.

Abuse is causing intentional pain or harm and may be physical, mental, verbal, psychological or sexual. Neglect is the failure to care for person in a manner that would avoid harm and pain or the failure to react to a situation that may be harmful.

Anyone suspecting abuse or neglect should report it to at least one of the following: facility’s administrator or nursing director; local or state ombudsman; local police or state law enforcement; adult protective services; or the state survey agency that licenses and certifies nursing homes.

Residents may experience abuse from a staff member, an intruder, a visitor or a family member. Forms of physical abuse include hitting, pinching, shoving, force-feeding, scratching, slapping or spitting. Forms of psychological abuse include ignoring, berating, ridiculing, cursing and threats of punishment or deprivation. Sexual abuse includes improper touching or coercion to perform sexual acts.

Substandard care is another form of abuse and may result in immobilization, incontinence, dehydration, pressure sores and depression. Abuse may also include rough handling during care giving, medicine administration or moving a resident.

Financial abuse occurs when a resident’s belongings or money are misplaced or misused without the resident’s consent. Examples include not placing resident funds in separate interest-bearing accounts and stealing or embezzling a resident’s money or personal property such as jewelry or clothing.

Neglect may or may not be intentional. Examples include incorrect body positioning which leads to contractures and skin breakdown, lack of toileting or changing of disposable briefs, causing incontinence resulting in residents sitting in urine or feces, increased falls and agitation, and indignity.

Lack of assistance with eating or drinking can lead to dehydration and malnutrition. Lack of assistance with walking can lead to immobility. Lack of bathing can lead to indignity and poor hygiene. Lack of proper hand washing can lead to infection. Lack of assistance with participating in activities of interest can lead to withdrawal and isolation. Ignoring call bells or cries for help is yet another form of neglect.

Ombudsmen volunteers are important in ensuring quality care for our area residents. There continues to be a need for volunteers, and training is free, flexible and available in your area.

For more information about abuse and neglect of the elderly or to become an ombudsman volunteer, contact Samantha Walker, SWODA ombudsman supervisor, by calling 800-627-4882 ext. 132 or by emailing swalker@swoda.org.

The SWODA region comprises eight counties in rural Oklahoma—Beckham, Custer, Greer, Harmon, Jackson, Kiowa, Roger Mills and Washita—covering over 7,000 square miles and approximately 110,000 residents. For more information about SWODA services, contact us at (580) 562-4882.