You place a large degree of trust in nursing home staff when you or your loved one take up residence there—you expect a warm, caring, inclusive environment and people who will help and have genuine concern for your wellbeing.
When you or your loved one are mistreated or abused by negligent staff members, that trust is shattered. Depending on whether you’re the one experiencing the abuse or if it’s your loved one who’s on the receiving end, feelings of anger, fear, sadness, and frustration are common and valid.
Elderly abuse is an intentional act or failure to act that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult. It’s far more common than most people would like to think and, just like other forms of abuse, it comes in all kinds—physical, sexual, emotional or psychological, financial, and in the form of neglect.
In 2008, one in 10 elders reported emotional, physical, or sexual abuse or potential neglect in the past year. Many cases go unreported because elders are afraid or unable to tell police, friends, or family about the abuse. Elder abuse can have several physical and emotional effects on an older adult and many victims of elder abuse endure physical injuries—from minor cuts and scratches to head injuries and broken bones. Physical injuries can lead to premature death and worsen existing health issues.
The question becomes what can we do to prevent elder abuse from happening to you and your loved ones? One way to find the nursing home that is both safe and the best fit for the person going into care is to tour the facilities you’re considering and ask as many questions as possible.
Below, we’ve provided a checklist of questions you can (and should) ask at each nursing home you visit in your search for the right home:
Nursing Home Checklist
Be sure to take note of the name, address, phone number, and date you visited the nursing home you’re rating as you’re taking notes and jotting down answers to your questions.
- Is the nursing home Medicare certified?
- Is the nursing home Medicaid certified?
- Does the nursing home have the level of care I need?
- Does the nursing home have a bed available?
- Does the nursing home offer specialized services, like a special care unit for a resident with dementia, ventilator care, or rehabilitation services?
- Is the nursing home located close enough for friends and family to visit?
- Are the residents clean, well groomed, and appropriately dressed for the season or time of day?
Nursing Home Living Spaces
- Is the nursing home free from overwhelming unpleasant odors?
- Does the nursing home appear clean and well kept?
- Is the temperature in the nursing home comfortable for residents?
- Does the nursing home have good lighting?
- Are the noise levels in the dining room and other common areas comfortable?
- Is smoking allowed? If so, is it restricted to certain areas of the nursing home?
- Is the furniture sturdy, yet comfortable and attractive?
- Does the relationship between the staff and residents appear to be warm, polite, and respectful?
- Does the staff wear name tags?
- Does the staff knock on the door before entering a resident’s room? Do they refer to residents by name?
- Does the nursing home offer a training and continuing education program for all staff?
- Does the nursing home check to make sure they don’t hire staff members who have been found guilty of abuse, neglect, or mistreatment of residents; or have a finding of abuse, neglect, or mistreatment of residents in the state nurse aide registry?
- Is there a licensed nursing staff 24 hours a day, including a Registered Nurse (RN) present at least 8 hours per day, 7 days a week?
- Will a team of nurses and Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) work with me to meet my needs?
- Do CNAs help plan the care of residents?
- Is there a person on staff that will be assigned to meet my social service needs?
- Will the staff call my doctor for me if I have a medical need?
- Has there been a turnover in administration staff, like the administrator or director of nurses, in the past year?
- Can residents have personal belongings and furniture in their rooms?
- Does each resident have storage space (closet and drawers) in his or her room?
- Does each resident have a window in his or her bedroom?
- Do residents have access to a personal phone and television?
- Do residents have a choice of roommates?
- Are there policies and procedures to protect residents’ possessions, including lockable cabinets and closets?
Hallways, Stairs, Lounges, & Bathrooms
- Are exits clearly marked?
- Are there quiet areas where residents can visit with friends and family?
- Does the nursing home have smoke detectors and sprinklers?
- Are all common areas, resident rooms, and doorways designed for wheelchair use?
- Are handrails and grab bars appropriately placed in the hallways and bathrooms?
Menus & Food
- Do residents have a choice of food items at each meal? (Ask if your favorite foods are served.)
- Can the nursing home provide for special dietary needs (like low-salt or no-sugar-added diets)?
- Are nutritious snacks available upon request?
- Does the staff help residents eat and drink at mealtimes if help is needed?
- Can residents, including those who are unable to leave their rooms, choose to take part in a variety of activities?
- Do residents help plan or choose activities that are available?
- Does the nursing home have outdoor areas for resident use? Is the staff available to help residents go outside?
- Does the nursing home have an active volunteer program?
Safety & Care
- Does the nursing home have an emergency evacuation plan and hold regular fire drills (bed-bound residents included)?
- Do residents get preventive care, like a yearly flu shot, to help keep them healthy? Does the facility help arrange hearing screenings or vision tests?
- Can residents still see their personal doctors? Does the facility help arrange transportation for this purpose?
- How often are charts reviewed by a doctor?
- Does the nursing home have an arrangement with a nearby hospital for emergencies?
- Are care plan meetings held with residents and family members at times that are convenient and flexible whenever possible?
- Has the nursing home corrected all deficiencies (failure to meet one or more state or federal requirements) on its last state inspection report?
- Does the nursing home have specific policies and procedures related to the care of individuals with dementia? If so, does the policy include the use of non-medication-based approaches to care as a first attempt to respond to behavioral symptoms, which are often a means of communication, for patients living with dementia?
- What percentage of residents who have a diagnosis of dementia are currently being prescribed an antipsychotic medication?
- What’s the nursing home’s current rate of antipsychotic medication use?
- Does the nursing home participate in any efforts related to reducing the use of antipsychotic medication in nursing homes? (These include National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care, National Nursing Home Quality Care Collaborative, and Advancing Excellence in America’s Nursing Homes Campaign.)
If you or a loved one has been the victim of nursing home negligence or elder abuse in Indiana, schedule a free consultation with our skilled elder abuse attorneys immediately to discuss your situation and learn more about your options for compensation.