There are often danger signs that indicate poor eldercare, but you have to know what to look for. Below are four warning signs of poor care.
We have all read stories of the frail elderly woman who was rushed to the hospital from a nursing home, home care, or assisted living suffering from dehydration, drug overdose or
pressure sores. A tearful family member is often interviewed telling us they had no idea there was anything wrong. Mom was always found in her bed comfortably propped up with pillows with a colorful blanket pulled up to her chin Although her dementia no longer allowed her to speak, she was always smiling. It was only after she was rushed to the hospital that the family found out her arms was riddled with rashes and sores.
These are heartbreaking stories of abuse and neglect. Yet they are often avoidable, especially if families know how to identify potential dangers signs. Here are four that indicate poor care.
Danger Sign #1: Significant Weight Loss
A sudden loss in weight is often a major indicator that someone is not eating properly. It could indicate that the staff is not watching to see if a loved one is able to eat or the staff is not providing needed assistance. Always check to determine if your family member is having trouble cutting her food, handling a fork, or swallowing. Beyond these mechanical difficulties, there are multiple reasons for loss of appetite including depression, medication, mouth or dental pain, infection, or illness that should be investigated.
Danger Sign #2: Lethargy, Sleepiness, Mood Changes
Changes in mood, sleep cycle or alertness are all signs that something is not right with a patient’s care. Often behavior changes are due to the side effect of a new medicine or a change in dosage. Make sure you are kept informed about all changes in medications and the reasons for these changes. Alert the home care agency or head nurse in a nursing home immediately if you notice any mood changes.
Regularly check to ask if any new medications have been added to the mix. Sometimes drugs can act adversely with each other, so check to make sure they are compatible. Note if the dosage has been changed. Sometime a change in dosage can cause drowsiness or edginess. Also notice if any medications have been added over the last few weeks. Many times new medications build up over time and adverse effects might not become apparent right away. Your careful observations can make a big difference in the care of your parents or loved ones care.
Danger Sign #3: Unkempt or Unclean Appearance
Notice your loved one’s appearance. Everyone has the right to be clean and well groomed; it shows a sign of respect, something every patient deserves. Take a look at the state of your loved one’s clothing, hair, skin and nails. If your mom does not look clean, find out why. Some patients, particularly people with dementia, are very sensitive to touch and might need to be treated more gently. Most important, if you do not feel a care attendant is considering the well being of your loved one, it is time to replace her.
Danger Sign #4: Pressure Sores—a Family’s Biggest Nightmare
One of the greatest dangers for a frail bedridden individual is a pressure sore, also known as a bedsore. A pressure sore is caused by unrelieved pressure, friction or humidity on a portion of the body, typically over a bony part of the body such as the heel, ankle, hips, and buttocks. These sores start small but if they go undiscovered or are not treated they can get larger and can become infected. In extreme cases a pressure sore can cause death. It a patient is unable to turn or reposition herself independently, there should be a care plan in place in place to help protect pressure areas.
It is the responsibility of the health care attendant to look for infections or sores but even a conscious aide can miss signs. The best way to insure your loved one is not developing a pressure sore is to physically check. Stay in the room when an aide is dressing, bathing, or changing your loved one. Many family members feel this is an infringement of a loved one’s personal space, but it is an important duty. Sometimes a second set of eyes can catch sores before they become a serious problem.
Caring for a frail parent, sibling, spouse or friend is a major commitment. It is easy to hope that an outsider will always give your loved one the best heath care possible. However even the most well-meaning attendant might overlook small warning signs. It is up to family and friends to insure that a special loved one is treated with the respect she deserves.
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