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What Nursing Home Employees Say About Neglect And Abuse
When we investigate a nursing home neglect claim, we don’t just want to know what happened, we want to know why it happened. Part of what we do is interview former nursing home employees who can tell us what it was like working in the nursing home where the neglect or abuse occurred. Typically what we learn is that the neglect was directly or indirectly related to understaffing and/or poorly screened and poorly supervised employees.
Below we’ve compiled several interview excerpts that help reveal what really goes on inside nursing homes, when no one is watching.
Management Ignores Evidence of Nursing Home Neglect
When asked why the nursing staff did not keep a patient (“Dorothy”) clean leading to advanced and painful pressure sores, one former staff member explained how management turned a blind eye towards obvious indicators of neglect:
“You had to put some work in to change [Dorothy]. And [management] hired anybody so there would be people who wouldn’t change her, didn’t even want to deal with it. I know when I would come in on night shift, she would be soaking wet. It was just like she was there and they looked at her as if she was already dead. You know what I’m saying? I mean, you had to know. If you’re really the DON [director of nursing], and you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, you would be going to check on that patient. If you go in that room and you check on that patient, you smelled her. That’s the first thing you smell when you walk into a room, but she’s not dead and you get closer. You could see it. There is no way you couldn’t have known.”
Employees Are Not Properly Screened and Supervised
Another former nursing home employee we interviewed explained how patients suffered because employees that should never had been hired to care for vulnerable patients ignored patient needs. She explained:
“Like one of the residents would need to use the bathroom. They’d say, ‘No.’ Or, ‘Pee on yourself. I’ll change you later.’ Or, a resident said they’re hungry. ‘Well, you just got through eating.’ I mean, it only takes a second to get the man or woman something else to eat. … Or, a person would be laying in bed, saying, ‘Please get me up.’ …[the staff member would say] ‘No, I’m not getting you up today.’ Or, ‘I’m too tired to get you up today.’”
It’s not as though signs of neglect go unnoticed and unreported. Families certainly do complain, but too often those complaints fall upon the deaf ears of management personnel who were responsible for the understaffing in the first place. A former employee explained to us what happened when family members reported concerns to management:
“Family members complain every day. They might come in and their family member is soaked. They might … come in and their family member’s soiled. They’re in the dining room and their clothes are dirty. They still in the bed, hadn’t got their shower today. Or, they might be able to say, ‘I didn’t get my shower today.’ Then, regardless of the issue, they’re like, “Why mom didn’t get her shower today?” [Management’s] not gonna tell the family member, ‘We’re understaffed.’”
We’ve heard many dozens of former employees recall these same agonizing details of neglect and abuse. When nursing homes hire too few staff, they not only shortchange the patients from getting good care, they burn out the good employees who are trying to do their best. Too often management shortchanges the patients by hiring too few staff members. When the good staffmembers are not properly supported, they move on. That is why there is such incredible staffing turnover in this industry.
You Can Help Stop Nursing Home Neglect
While the prevalence of abuse and neglect is alarming, it is important to know that there are actionable steps that you can take to both help prevent these care failures in the first place, and also to hold those responsible for abuse and neglect accountable.
Be vigilant and look for any warning signs of neglect or abuse, document them, and report them immediately. You can read this article on how to report nursing home neglect or abuse. Filing a complaint is quick and easy. By taking the time to do it, you can help make a difference.
If you are considering the pursuit of a possible nursing home neglect/abuse claim you should consult an attorney regarding the legal deadlines for filing suit against a nursing home. This can be a complex issue and the deadlines can vary depending upon the circumstances of the case, so you should consult an attorney without delay.
More about the prevalence of nursing home neglect and abuse (and how to help prevent it) is also discussed in the recently published book about nursing home abuse, Abuses and Excuses: How To Hold Bad Nursing Homes Accountable, now available on Amazon.
This problem is not going to go away on its own. It will take all of us, each doing what we can, to help put a stop to this rampant problem.
Together we can make a difference.