Have you ever been at the nursing home when your loved one decides to press the call light? You know that a nurse can’t be there immediately, but you expect it to take a few minutes. After all, that light could mean someone needs emergency assistance, as in the case of a heart attack.

But then you wait. And wait. And wait. Maybe you end up pushing the button again. Maybe the nurse shows up a half-hour later. Is that acceptable?

It’s really not. Nurses need to respond as quickly as they can. They don’t know the nature of the issue. If they write it off as a resident wanting a glass of water or something inconsequential when they’re really having a heart attack or have taken a serious fall, the ramifications can be serious.

Much of the time, nurses will use the excuse that they were just too busy. One nurse who has to take care of a dozen elderly residents may be doing all they can to answer the call buttons, but it’s not realistic. If they’re helping someone else and have more people waiting, they can’t get to your loved one in five minutes.

While that excuse may be honest, you must still question whether the fault lies with the facility itself. Is it routinely understaffed? Do nurses neglect patients because there simply are not enough nurses on each shift to meet residents’ needs?

No matter why it happens, neglect can lead to serious injuries and even resident deaths. You can be your loved one’s advocate if you know what steps to take when you suspect neglect.