It's hard to admit, but sadly true: almost all of us know someone who had a bad experience with a nursing home.
Whether they - or their loved ones - were neglected or just treated poorly by staff, we all want to avoid the same experience when we pick a home ourselves.
Maybe you're choosing a home for yourself, or for a vulnerable family member. Or maybe you're just worried about how someone you know is being treated.
No matter what your concern is, you can spot warning signs of an unsafe nursing or care home.
Here are 13 red flags to look out for:
1. Noisy Halls
They're called "rest homes" for a reason.
In most cases, a noisy care facility is a sign of a chaotic environment. Shouting patients or staff, constant P.A. announcements, and other loud interruptions are all signs of more serious problems.
A loud environment can also be aggravating for patients with dementia or Alzheimer's, which will only create more problems for staff and patients.
2. Vanishing Administrators
During a tour of a rest home, the building's administrators should be on site, and be able to take a few moments to speak with you.
The presence of the person in charge keeps a facility running smoothly. And the last thing you want is to play telephone tag with someone who is always out of their office when you're trying to check on your relative.
3. Strict "Visiting Hours"
Care homes are not hospitals. Your family should be able to visit you any day of the week, join you for activities, and even check on you in the middle of the night if they're concerned.
Any facility that tries to put limits on the time your family spends with you is questionable.
4. A Sharp Decrease In Quality
If your relative has been staying in a home for some time, but lately the quality of their care has gone down sharply, it might be time to consider moving.
A change in administrators, staff, or procedures can have a serious effect on a patient's health.
If your first choice just doesn't cut it anymore, don't be afraid to start looking for somewhere new.
5. Problems With The Food
Before you leave a relative in a nursing home, it pays to sample the food they'll be eating and ask questions about it.
Would you serve it to your own family? Are there snacks available between meals? Are there options that suit everyone's taste?
Be on the lookout for signs of malnutrition or dehydration, including tiredness and irritability. You are what you eat, so expect the best for your relatives.
6. Patients With Injuries
This might seem obvious, but often family members overlook obvious signs of abuse and neglect until it's too late.
Do other patients have bruises? Do they complain about falling down often?
The one symptom to never ignore are bed sores, also called pressure ulcers. These are serious signs that a patient has been neglected by their care staff.
7. The Staff Rush To Make A Deal
If a facility really cares about your relative's well-being, they'll encourage you to compare them to other care homes.
If you feel like staff are rushing to make you commit your relative to their home, they probably are. These kinds of shady business practices are a warning sign for other problems.
8. Patients With Poor Hygiene
How does your relative look when you visit them? What about the other patients?
Is their hair is unkempt, or are they wearing stained or soiled clothing? Are their teeth and nails being ignored? If so, something is wrong.
This lack of attention reveals serious problems with the care home. Odds are they're probably letting the cleaning duties slip too, which lets diseases fester.
9. Almost No Staff
As you walk through the halls, you should see staff doing their rounds and interacting with patients. Empty halls mean that the home is probably understaffed, and patients aren't getting the care they deserve.
If you can, interview staff about how long they've been working at the home. Quick turnover is a sign that the quality of care will not be good.
10. Patients Seem Disoriented
When you visit your relative, or speak to other patients, do they seem aware and alert?
One of the most common forms of elder abuse is improper sedation, or drugging patients so they're easier to handle.
But improper care, with not enough activities or attention, can also affect a patient's mental health.
11. Lack Of Choice
Most nursing home residents spend years living there - it's a place to spend the rest of your life after all.
So they should have the opportunity to enjoy a full and free life, including making decisions about how they spend their time.
If your relative is complaining that someone else sets their schedule, staff could be ignoring their other choices and concerns too.
12. Complaints About Missing Property
An overlooked form of elder abuse is the theft of their property by caretakers.
Elderly patients will misplace things, but if they regularly complain that property is disappearing from their room, something is wrong.
Ask the home's administrator if staff members take background checks.
13. Staff Are Disrespectful
It's worse than just being impolite: staff members must respect patients to provide suitable care.
You should expect the caretakers in a home to know the names of their patients and use them, to respond quickly to problems, and to speak to and treat their patients like adults.
Have you had a bad experience with a nursing home?
[H/T: U.S. News & World Report]