by Ramonica R. Jones During her 30-year nursing career, Barbara Shadden has seen sick, disabled, and elderly patients get improper care, even mistreated by their caregivers. Shadden is now the clinical director for Hospice in the Pines and has some advice for families with relatives in a hospital or nursing care center, especially those who can't communicate. She encourages people to stay in close contact with their loved one's caregivers and often check their relative for bruises, abrasions, or anything else out of the ordinary. "Listen to them if they say that someone comes in their room at night or they're missing something," said Shadden. "I think a lot of times people will think that, someone that's elderly especially, maybe just dreamed something and they might not listen to them as closely as they need to." And don't hesitate to call the facility regularly or even show up unannounced. It's one way to truly see how other patients are being treated. Most caregivers won't get offended. A common mistake people make when placing their sick or dying relative in a care center is not thoroughly checking out the facility. Talking to nurses and other staff members can help you make sure it's the right place for your family member. "When you've got real active families that come to see their family members real frequently and they monitor not only their physical condition, but their weight, how well they're eating, or are they still making eye contact, do they seem extremely sad, are they happy with their situation - whether it's in a nursing home or in the home with caregivers" patient abuse can be prevented. To report abuse, neglect, or unethical conduct against a hospice care facility, nursing home or hospital, call the Texas Department of State Health Services at 1-800-821-3205, Department of Aging and Disability Services or Department of Family and Protective Services at 1-800-458-9858.