5. "I don't want so-and-so to care for me." Your loved one should never feel distressed or uncomfortable around any staff member, experts say. Even if Dad suffers from cognitive problems, "take these statements seriously and investigate them thoroughly with the nursing home leadership," says Kind. "They may be signs of mistreatment or neglect."
And even if Dad doesn't say anything, observe him when staff enters the room. Does he seem happy? Or is he anxious, fearful, or uncomfortable?
6. Constantly ringing phones and unanswered call lights. It should raise an alarm if the nursing staff doesn't have the time to pick up the phone, says Elisa Gil-Pires, section chief of geriatric medicine and palliative care at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, Conn.
And if Mom says she's waiting a long time after pushing the call button, "find out for yourself," says Erin Hilligan, a licensed nursing home administrator at Ebenezer Ridges, a long-term care facility in Burnsville, Minn. "Put the light on. Note if the delay is during a specific time of day—shift change or a meal time, maybe. Then bring up your concern to a staff person and note how it is handled." Of particular concern, adds Sewell, is if Mom says something like, " 'I waited as long as I could for someone to help me to the bathroom and then I just could not wait any longer, and so I got up on my own.' "
7. Dehydration and malnourishment. "One of the most frequent and insidious signs of neglectful nursing home care is dehydration," says Kind. "If a nursing home does not have the adequate number of high-quality staff, residents in that home may not receive all of the food or fluids they need to remain hydrated and nutritionally sound. Meals may even be completely missed." Act immediately if you suspect this is occurring, Kind says.
8. Status quo reigns. Ask staff what improvements the nursing home has recently put in place, especially since your loved one moved in. In particular, ask about anything they told you would be updated by now. "It is easy to identify nursing homes that are trying to improve and ones that are trying not to get shut down," says Uy.
9. A bad feeling. Ultimately, your gut knows. "Most of these warning signs will be the family member's concern that something is not right, or a feeling of uneasiness when they visit," says Gil-Pires.