If you have a loved one in a nursing home, you should be able to expect that he or she is receiving capable, dignified care. You should be able to expect that your loved one is in good hands and feels safe.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for too many California nursing home residents who are subjected to neglect and abuse. If you have a loved one in a nursing home and you suspect mistreatment, there are important steps you can take to protect that person.

  1. Visit frequently and at varied times. This can reveal any conditions or behaviors that may not be evident if you visit at the same time infrequently. 
  2. Talk to your loved one. While some residents suffer from dementia or fear, be open to talking to them. They may already feel no one will believe them but listening to them and being supportive can be crucial.
  3. Look for nonverbal signs of abuse or neglect. If your loved one cannot or will not talk about abuse, look for physical signs. Pay attention to any bruises, infections, sudden behavioral changes, emotional withdrawal, malnutrition or over medication. All of these can be signs that the facility is not properly caring for a patient.
  4. Pay close attention to staffing. Getting to know the workers who interact with your loved one can make it more difficult for them to take advantage of a resident. It can also give you a person to talk to if you have concerns. Further, familiarizing yourself with staffing levels and turnover can alert you to potential issues of under staffing or adverse working conditions.
  5. Ask questions and don’t settle for vague answers. If you have any questions or concerns about your loved one’s care, do not hesitate to ask a staff member, supervisor or administrator. If you do not receive an adequate answer or solution, speak to someone higher up or reach out to an attorney. You may also want to file a complaint with the Licensing and Certification Division of the California Department of Public Health. You could be the best (and only) advocate for your loved one.

The unfortunate truth is that nursing home patients can be targets for mistreatment. However, you can protect your loved one by taking these steps and, when appropriate, taking legal action to hold an abusive party accountable.