Pennsylvania nursing home abuse and neglect: signs and symptoms

Family members must be vigilant in watching for evidence of negligence or abuse.

Handing over the responsibility for direct care of an elderly loved one to a nursing home can be an emotional and frightening experience, given the poor reputation of such facilities for quality of care. On any day, a quick search of the Internet brings up current news of instances of nursing home abuse and neglect.

Unfortunately, Pennsylvania nursing homes received a D rating overall on the 2014

Nursing Home Report Card study by nonprofit elder advocacy organization Families for Better Care. Pennsylvania ranked 32nd out of all states in the composite grade assigned after assessment of eight quality markers based on data available from the Kaiser Health Foundation, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services' Nursing Home Compare and the Office of State Long-Term Care Ombudsman complaint data.

In five of the eight quality measures Pennsylvania scored below average or failing marks. The Pennsylvania data showed particular problems with low levels of direct care and understaffing, which can lead to a whole host of problems. The study found that while Pennsylvania nursing homes had a "high percentage of facilities with deficiencies," state regulators "issued relatively few severe deficiencies when compared to other states."

Clearly, Pennsylvanians must remain watchful for signs of abuse or neglect when visiting their loved ones in nursing homes. In general, watch for evidence of tension between the patient and staff, staff not leaving the elder alone with visitors and personality and behavior changes, according to Helpguide.org.

Elder abuse in nursing homes falls into the categories of physical, emotional, sexual, neglectful and financial or material. Here are some of the signs and symptoms:

  • Physical abuse may be shown by bruises, bone fractures, broken glasses, medication irregularities and more
  • Emotional abuse may be indicated by dementia-like behavior like rocking or mumbling, withdrawal, refusal to talk and more
  • Sexual abuse signs include bruising or bleeding in personal areas of the body, STDs and related infections, damaged or stained clothing or linens, and more
  • Neglect may be manifested by weight loss, dehydration, malnutrition, bed sores or pressure ulcers, poor hygiene, unsanitary or unsafe conditions, failure to prevent wandering or elopement, failure to provide medical care and more
  • Financial or material abuse can be indicated by missing petty cash or personal property, unexplained irregularities in accounts, provision of services or goods that were not requested, unexpected or unusual execution of changes to wills, and more

Should a family member suspect abuse or neglect, after securing medical care and emergency services, if necessary, he or she should consult an attorney for advice and guidance. Legal counsel can launch a private investigation into the matter, including review of records and interviews of witnesses and advise the family about available legal remedies that could include a personal injury lawsuit or in extreme cases a wrongful death action, such as in a case when bed sores develop from failure to regularly turn a patient and resulting untreated infection leads to fatal sepsis.

With four offices in Pennsylvania and one in New Jersey, the personal injury lawyers of Soloff & Zervanos, P.C., represent clients in nursing home abuse, negligence and neglect cases throughout Pennsylvania and in southern New Jersey.