Professional Comment

What Is Considered Negligence In A Nursing Home?

Author: Sophie Bishop is a medical journalist. Sophie aims to spread awareness through her writing around issues to do with healthcare, wellbeing and sustainability and is looking to connect with an engaged audience.
Connect with Sophie on Twitter: @SophBishJourno

When you make the decision to move into a nursing home, or move a loved one, you expect a high standard of care. But nursing home neglect is actually surprisingly common, and it can have devastating consequences on the individuals involved.

But what does negligence in this setting look like and how can residents and their loved ones prevent it?

What does neglect mean?
Neglect in nursing homes and care homes means failing to provide the right standard of care, whether intentional or not, to residents. Neglect may mean not reacting to dangerous situations that put the resident’s safety in jeopardy, not providing the right level of care, or not acting on complaints they may have in regard to their care.

Neglect differs from abuse, as the former refers to a lack of action or reaction from caregivers while abuse refers to deliberate harm to the residents, such as physical, emotional or sexual harm. It’s something that is unfortunately on the rise. According to research, it’s estimated that 498,260 concerns of abuse were raised in 2020-21, an increase of 5% from the previous year.

Examples of nursing home negligence
Neglect can take many forms in a nursing home setting. It may be failing to keep harmful objects from vulnerable people, not changing bedding or cleaning their living environment. Medical negligence solicitors McCarthy & Co Solicitors explain that nursing home negligence can include medication and prescription errors, or misdiagnoses, a resident being left in bed for long periods of time causing pressure ulcers and sores, and injuries related to falls caused by inadequate mobility aids or a lack of supervision from staff.

Residents and their relatives need to be mindful of the signs of negligence, in order to take action sooner rather than later. These include unexplained injuries, dehydration or malnutrition, poor personal hygiene, poor living conditions, and psychological issues such as unexplained fear and depression or a desire to simply be left alone.

Forms of nursing home neglect
There are many forms of elder neglect, all of which can have a negative impact on those involved.

Abandonment, for example, occurs when a caregiver leaves a resident with no regard for their wellbeing and safety, or removing them from the home completely without any regard for where they will stay.

Medical neglect is also a common form of negligence in care homes, and this occurs when care providers fail to treat health problems or misdiagnose residents.

Other forms of negligence include neglecting the basic needs of residents, such as providing them with food or water, or a clean living environment, or failing to help them with their personal hygiene. Social or emotional neglect may also be an issue, where nursing homes may leave residents alone for long periods or prevent them from interacting with other people or seeing their family and friends. This can be a particular issue for people with physical or mental disabilities as they may require caregivers to help them move and interact with other people.

Why might negligence occur in a nursing home environment?
There are many reasons why a nursing home may be accused of negligence, from unprofessionalism on the part of the caregivers, a lack of adequate training for staff, a lack of suitable infrastructure in the facility, or insufficient employees for the number of residents in the home. Neglect ultimately occurs when the home doesn’t make every effort to care for its residents and to prevent these types of pitfalls.

Final thoughts
Negligence isn’t a pleasant topic, but it’s unfortunately one that is a genuine concern in nursing homes that needs to be brought to light. There are thousands of care and nursing homes in the UK, and while the quality of care is largely good, it’s sadly not always the case. Nursing homes are home to vulnerable people who deserve to be treated with respect and compassion.

Knowing what the signs of negligence are can help residents and those around them spot the signs and take appropriate action.