The COVID-19 pandemic was the tip of the long-term care iceberg. It revealed a disturbing history of nursing home neglect that was hiding beneath its surface.
The pandemic was the catalyst for public outcry concerning the conditions of nursing homes and other long-term care (LTC) facilities in Canada. In 2019, before the pandemic began, The Canadian Union of Public Employees stated that Canada could no longer meet the demands of the increase in LTC patients, deeming it a crisis. Budgetary cuts, poor working conditions, and the lack of facility maintenance and development are preventing residents from receiving the proper standard of care. The pandemic exasperated this pre-existing crisis. The result was an overwhelming number of outbreaks and deaths in LTC facilities, and reports of nursing home neglect started pouring in.
When considering LTC for yourself or your loved ones, knowing the warning signs of nursing home neglect is crucial. Identifying and reporting neglect early on can prevent further physical, emotional, or potentially life-threatening damages.
How to identify nursing home neglect
Various types of negligence can happen in a nursing home, including emotional and social, hygiene, basic needs, and medical neglect. When a nursing home fails to meet the standards of care that its residents need, it can have devastating impacts on their emotional and physical wellbeing.
Warning signs of nursing home neglect:
- Unexplained or unexpected injuries or death
- Rapid weight loss or weight gain, malnutrition
- Unsanitary conditions
- Untreated injuries and illnesses
- Inadequate disability accommodations or a lack thereof
- Poor hygiene (unwashed and dirty clothing, no dental care or maintenance, no bathing)
- Uncharacteristic changes in behaviour
- Unnecessary or excessive medication or sedation
- Social withdrawal or voluntary self-isolation
- A reluctancy to speak in the presence of nursing home staff
The easiest way to identify negligence is by maintaining frequent communication and visits with your loved ones. They may not be aware of their neglect, unable to vocalize what’s wrong, or too scared to speak up. Asking specific questions concerning their daily routines and interactions with staff and observing their living arrangements and facilities in person can help identify their quality of care.
What to do if you suspect nursing home neglect
If you suspect that a nursing home neglects to properly care for your loved one, file a complaint. To report urgent complaints (harm, danger, neglect), contact the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care via the Long-term Home Care ACTION line. To report non-urgent complaints, contact the home directly. The government requires nursing homes to follow a specific protocol for handling complaints. They must inform you of what, how, and when they plan to resolve your complaint or provide an explanation as to why they believe there’s no cause for complaint.
You should also consider contacting a nursing home negligence lawyer, especially if you’re unsatisfied with how your complaint was or was not resolved. A lawyer can file reports on your behalf and assist you in taking legal action towards the facility if necessary.