Nursing Homes May Purposely Ignore Dementia Symptoms

nursing home staff ignoring dementia symptoms

Identifying Dementia Warning Signs in Nursing Home Residents

Dementia denial from caregivers is real and dangerous. And unfortunately, many nursing home owners find it easier to have staff ignore the warning signs of declining cognitive abilities rather than provide additional support. Dementia diagnoses can also be missed when overworked, and poorly resourced care teams are not trained to evaluate struggling residents who require extra supervision and management of their daily activities, medications, and financial needs. Eventually, these residents need to move to a 24-hour assisted specialized environment to keep them safe, especially as their disease progresses into later stages. Family members and friends are typically the first to request help after noticing a loved one’s behavioral changes or one or more of the concerning events listed below.

#1. Early Stage Memory Loss

One of the most common signs of dementia, especially in the early stage, is forgetting information such as important dates or events, asking the same questions repeatedly, and increasingly needing to rely on others to recall facts, people, or routines.

#2. Inability to Concentrate and Conversate

Some people living with dementia may experience changes in their ability to concentrate and follow a plan or follow a conversation. This includes confusion with writing or following or joining a discussion. They may struggle with vocabulary, have trouble naming a familiar object, or use the wrong name (e.g., calling a “bed” a “table”).

#3. Falls

People with dementia have an increased risk of falls and hip fractures. Falls can also happen when staff are not following protocol during a transfer, whether manually or with a lifting device’s assistance. Severe bone fractures and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are common fall injuries that lead to a decline in a person’s health and ultimately contribute to 20% nursing home resident deaths each year.

#4. Wandering and Elopement

Six out of 10 people with dementia will wander and aimlessly move about within the facility or grounds without regard of their personal safety. The National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners (NCCDP) has identified several types of wandering, such as environmentally cued wandering, recreational wandering, agitated purposeful wandering, fantasy, and reminiscent wandering, and elopement. Elopement is the most dangerous type of wandering and occurs when a patient attempts to leave the nursing home altogether and wander outside. Residents can be seriously hurt or killed during these preventable events.

When confronted, eloping patients may respond aggressively towards staff and be unwilling to cooperate or return to the nursing home’s safe areas, harming themselves or others. Worse, if the issue is left unresolved, incidents of wandering may continue to occur as it is common for residents that have attempted elopement to flee again.

#5. Growing Difficulty with Simple Tasks

As dementia progresses, the ability to perform daily tasks such as dressing, bathing, eating, socializing, or walking decreases. Sedentary behavior in nursing home residents is also associated with an increased risk of illness and death.

#6. General Confusion Over Appointments and Visits

People living with dementia can lose track of dates, seasons, and important events like holidays or scheduled visits with friends and family. And sometimes they have trouble understanding where they are, why they are there, or how they got there.

#7. Misplacing Items and Accusing Others of Stealing

They may lose things, put them in unusual places, or be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Your loved one may accuse others of stealing or misplace vital information and personal items, especially as the disease progresses.

#8. Changes in Personality, Mood, and Sound Judgment

Individuals may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor discretion when dealing with money or pay less attention to eating and grooming. Mood and personality changes can happen to someone with early-stage Alzheimer’s or dementia. They can quickly become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, overly excited, or anxious – and just as easily upset even when visiting friends or family, or care staff and doctors they once trusted.

Most Illinois nursing homes have fewer nurses and medical staff than they report, leaving underqualified and stressed nursing assistants and personal aides with the 24-hour tasks to keep far too many patients’ dietary, hygiene, medication, and daily living needs met. Those who require extra care, such as dementia patients, are often first neglected.

Get Familiar With The Types of Abuse and Neglect Common to Dementia Residents

Direct-care workers, such as aides and personal care attendants, provide most of the daily support to vulnerable older adults living in nursing homes. To reduce the risk of ongoing abuse or neglect of loved ones who may be in the early stages of dementia, families should be aware of these tragic situations and stop them from continuing.

  • Physical Abuse:Causing physical pain or injury to a resident.
  • Emotional Abuse: Any verbal assault, threat of violence, harassment and intimidation is not acceptable.
  • Neglect: A failure to provide necessities, including food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or a safe environment.
  • Confinement: The restraining or isolating of the resident.
  • Financial Abuse: The misuse or withholding of the person’s financial resources (money, property) to their disadvantage or the advantage of someone else.
  • Sexual Abuse: Any touching, fondling, or any sexual activity when the person cannot understand, is unwilling to consent, threatened, or physically forced.
  • Willful Deprivation: Willfully denying the person medication, medical care, food, shelter, or physical assistance, and thereby exposing the individual with Alzheimer’s to the risk of physical, mental, or emotional harm.
  • Self-neglect: Due to lack of insight and cognitive changes, a person with an ignored cognitive disease may be unable to safely and adequately provide for day-to-day needs and may be at risk for harm, falls, wandering or malnutrition.

If your loved one has expressed behavioral or physical changes leading you to feelings of concern, act quickly to question their care team and demand answers from administrative staff. When you are ready, consult with an experienced nursing home abuse and neglect attorney at Levin & Perconti.

Speaking For Our Loved Ones with Dementia

If you suspect elder abuse or neglect, please contact us for a free consultation with one of our experienced nursing home attorneys at Levin & Perconti, located in Chicago. Together we will help determine if you have a case, notify the proper authorities, and vigorously pursue justice on your behalf. There is a statute of limitations for filing elder abuse cases in Illinois, so please contact us as soon as you are ready by calling 312-332-2872.

Also read: 6 Ways You Can Support Dementia Residents During COVID-19



Lawyer Monthly - Legal Awards Winner
The National Trial Lawyers
Elder Care Matters Alliance
American Association for Justice
Fellow Litigation Counsel of America
Super Lawyers
Contact Information