Warning Signs When Visiting Your Family Member in a Nursing Home or Other Facility

  1. Listen to what the resident is telling you about the home. Even if he has dementia, he still might be able to report on certain circumstances accurately.
  2. Observe their behavior/body language around the staff. Are there smiles and respectful communication? Do staffers know your loved one’s needs and preferences?
  3. Ask your family member if you can check their skin for cuts and bruises, depending of course on the relationship that you have with him or her. Also, know that not all bruises are a sign of abuse. If you see bruises, ask the resident what happened and also ask the provider.
  4. Warning signs of abuse/neglect/bad care can include such things as repeated falls, unexplained weight loss, sudden changes in behavior such as withdrawal or agitation, and not toileting or grooming. Again those are indicators and not dispositive. But do not hesitate to ask questions.

The above are excerpted with modification from The Seattle Times article “Warning signs to look for when visiting senior homes.” Additional suggestions include:

  1. When you visit the facility, arrive at different times of the day. If your loved one is always in bed or asleep, it could be an indication of over-medication, improper medication, malnutrition, or depression or some other problem.
  2. The resident’s avoidance, anxiety, agitation or withdrawn behavior around one or more staff members may be a warning sign.
  3. If the resident is left in soiled clothing, or exhibits poor hygiene, increased confusion, or behavioral changes, then these are the types of conditions that should prompt further questioning of both the resident and the staff.

For an additional resource on resident’s rights, see Residents’ Rights fact sheet which summarizes laws and regulations applicable to those in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.