Speaking out on Nursing Home Neglect

Remembrance Day is a time to honour our war veterans and the sacrifices they made for the country and future generations. But sadly, some of them have been deprived of the hero’s treatment they deserve. Instead, they are forgotten and abandoned in collective housing residences. Older former soldiers, along with many other seniors, are now fighting a new battle – nursing home neglect and abuse.  

By the Numbers  

With Canada’s population rapidly aging, collective residences for the elderly become more in demand. In the span of one decade, Statistics Canada found a 38% increase in the number of seniors living in nursing homes, growing from 285,370 in 2001 to 393,150 in 2011. This means more of our older loved ones will be vulnerable to neglect and abuse in such housing.

In 2013 alone, at least 1,500 cases of nursing home neglect and abuse were estimated to have taken place in Canada. However, due to the under-reporting of incidents, this number is likely much higher. Moreover, Ontario had the highest rate of reported incidents, accounting for over 1,000 of these cases.

As a result of these unfortunate living conditions, death and hospitality rates tend to rise, especially in for-profit nursing homes. The depression rate among seniors in Ontario care residences, which stands at 25.9%, is also higher than the national average of 23.8%. 

The prevalence of neglect and abuse in many nursing homes continues due to staff apathy and overly lenient employment practices. Studies have found 38% of those working in nursing homes have witnessed a colleague abusing a resident. But only about half of them actually reported what they had witnessed to a manager. And more than 80% of the time, the staff member who was caught committing abuse was still employed at the residence. 

Although a lot of employees are able to get away with abuse, nursing homes actually have high staff turnover. Hence, there aren’t enough workers to take care of the residents and their needs. The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario, which represents many nursing home employees, point to underfunding and low staffing as the main factors leading to neglect and abuse. 

What kind of mistreatment are seniors subject to? 

Many seniors living in nursing homes have experienced different kinds of abuse. Some have been victims of physical abuse, involving pushing and rough handling. Others have been sexually abused by staff in their own bedrooms. Verbal abuse is also commonly inflicted towards the residents, in the form of yelling, threats, humiliation and ridicule. Sadly, seniors are usually too physically weak to fight back and prevent this maltreatment.  

Warning signs of elder neglect and abuse 

If your loved one currently resides in a nursing home, has outlined signs to look out for so you can put a stop to potential mistreatment they may be experiencing.

  • Behaviour or personality changes in the elder
  • Unexplained signs of injury, such as bruises or scars
  • Unexplained infections or bleeding, especially around genitals
  • Broken bones, sprains, or dislocation
  • Bed sores
  • Unusual weight loss, malnutrition, and dehydration
  • The caregiver does not allow you to have alone time with the resident, and they want to be present at all times
  • The caregiver verbally abuses the resident in front of you
  • The resident and caregiver frequently argue or have an ongoing tension between them
  • The resident exhibits dementia-like behaviour, such as rocking, sucking, or mumbling to one’s self
  • Residents are dirty and unbathed
  • Unsanitary living conditions, such as dirt, bugs, mice, soiled bedding and clothes

How to choose a safe nursing home 

Before your elderly loved one is victimized by neglect or abuse, lessen the likelihood by selecting the right nursing home. 

  • Look into several nursing homes. Ask your family, friends, and doctor for recommendations to find reputable nursing homes. Have a variety of options to choose from, so you can compare and select the best one.
  • Do research on your prospective choices’ quality of service. Call your municipal or provincial health department to ask about the quality of service in your local nursing homes. Also, check to see if there are any survey findings on each facility, and if they submit to quality audits and comply with provincial standards.
  • Visit the nursing homes you’re looking into. This way, you can get a first-hand look at the place, the facilities, cleanliness, staff, service and how residents are treated.
  • Talk with care workers and medical staff at the nursing homes. Get to know the people who will potentially be taking care of your loved one, and whether they will be able to meet all their needs.
  • Observe meal times. Make sure the food is healthy, meets special nutritional needs, and is served on time and in adequate servings. Nursing home residents experiencing delayed feeding is a sign of neglect.
  • Ask about staffing policies. Inquire whether staff members undergo background checks and regular evaluations to ensure they are competent and delivering quality service. In addition, ask about how many staff members are on each shift, and whether they are permanently assigned to residents. Guarantee that someone will be attending to your loved one whenever needed.
  • Choose a residence nearby. It will be more convenient for you to select a nursing home that is close enough for you to visit regularly so you can see your loved one more often. Also, look into visiting hours to make sure you can squeeze them into your own schedule. Make it a habit to visit regularly to ensure your loved one is being treated right and has not been victimized by neglect and abuse.

“For the families, this is like our war,” said the daughter of a war veteran in a CBC interview. “There’s money to take care of people like him and he should be taken care of.” 

After living long and fulfilling lives, it is only right to ensure our seniors are treated with genuine care and proper safety. If your loved one has been injured in a nursing home, contact us today to learn about how we can help you receive the compensation you deserve.

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