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What you can do to protect loved ones from nursing home abuse?

The way North Carolina nursing home residents are treated has a significant impact on the quality of their lives. The selection of a long-term care facility often is a family decision based on several factors. The living environment, available medical services, caregivers' attitudes and costs are considered.

It's likely you won't meet everyone who interacts with your loved one before he or she moves to a nursing home. Staff and procedural changes routinely occur, making it even more difficult for family members to get to know caregivers. You can't monitor care round-the-clock, but you can be alert to evidence of nursing home neglect and abuse.

Your relative may not be able to communicate how he or she feels. Some residents are afraid to say anything, even to family members, in fear of retaliation. Nursing home residents aren't aware of protections against abuse and don't know how to exercise their rights.

Family members may advocate on behalf of a loved one when evidence of mistreatment appears. If you see clear signs of abuse, report it immediately to authorities. Keep in mind some changes may be related to a health condition and not abuse, but investigating causes of bedsores, personality changes, any form of restraint and symptoms of dehydration or malnourishment can only benefit the patient.

Conduct your investigation with discussions, not accusations - an attorney's advice about handling complaints can be helpful. Move up the chain of command if questions are ignored and answers are unsatisfactory. Provide all the details you've gathered about suspected misconduct and put the information in writing, including dates and times.

If you hit a brick wall with facility administrators, it may be time to contact a long-term care ombudsman with the North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services. If you reached this point without talking to an attorney, now may be a good time to make contact.

Source: AARP, " How to Advocate for Parents in Nursing Homes," accessed April. 06, 2015

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