Nursing home abuse and neglect happen at disturbing rates. This has only gotten worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. No one wants to think about their vulnerable loved one being mistreated. However, knowing what to do if you suspect nursing home abuse is the best defense. There are steps you can take to protect your loved one and help keep them out of harm’s way. Below, find out what to do if you suspect nursing home abuse.
Steps to Take Against Nursing Home Abuse
What to do if you suspect nursing home abuse is a subject most people are not prepared for. When a loved one is living in a nursing home, it is generally assumed that the facility will do its job to protect its residents.
Tragically, this is not always the case. In fact, nursing home abuse is a widespread problem that has become even more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, you must know what to do if you suspect nursing home abuse.
Taking immediate action is the best way to protect your loved one from harm. Since nursing home residents are often already frail and vulnerable, any delays can cause injuries to quickly worsen and even become deadly.
If you think nursing home abuse has occurred:
- Call 911 in an emergency
- Document signs and symptoms
- Gather evidence
- Contact a nursing home ombudsman
You may also want to contact an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer to help you. By taking legal action in cases of suspected nursing home abuse, you can get your loved one out of harm’s way and hold the facility accountable.
Get a free case review if abuse or neglect has occurred. Our team is standing by to help you explore your legal options. You can also read on for detailed information on what to do if you suspect nursing home abuse.
1. Call 911 in an Emergency
If your loved one is in life-threatening or immediate danger, there’s no time to waste — call 911 without delay. Calling 911 is the fastest way to take action if nursing home abuse or neglect is suspected.
Calling 911 allows your loved one to get immediate medical attention. Additionally, police can start an investigation into the incident, through which they may hold the nursing home and its staff criminally accountable.
If a nursing home resident is not in immediate danger, it may be more appropriate to report the suspected abuse through other means.
2. Note Signs of Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect
In cases where you think your loved one might be suffering from abuse but aren’t certain, noting possible signs of abuse or neglect is key.
There are several types of nursing home abuse, each with a unique set of warning signs.
Common red flags of each type of nursing home abuse include:
- Physical abuse: physical injuries like bruises
- Nursing home neglect: unkempt appearance or untreated injuries/illnesses
- Sexual abuse: unexplained sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- Psychological abuse: negative emotional changes (fear, confusion, depression)
- Financial abuse: strange financial transactions
If you think your loved one has suffered from any type of nursing home abuse, be sure to include dates for when you first noticed the signs. You can also note how long the symptoms have been present. This information will be important later on if you decide to report the abuse/neglect.
3. Gather Evidence
Even if you are unsure that you can prove nursing home abuse occurred, gathering as much evidence as possible can strengthen your case against a facility.
Evidence can play a crucial role in determining what to do if you suspect nursing home abuse. Further, you may be able to catch the abusers red-handed.
Some guidelines on how and when to gather evidence include:
- Asking your loved one to explain how they’ve been treated (if they can speak), writing down their responses, and noting important dates
- Collecting medical records that document possible signs of abuse or neglect, such as bedsores or infections
- Documenting any unexplained changes in your loved one’s weight or mood
- Documenting times you found your loved one restrained or tied to their bed
Keeping track of any unexplained financial transactions (e.g. bills paid for services they didn’t receive)
- Taking every complaint of mistreatment seriously, even if your loved one has
- Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia
- Taking photos or videos (with consent) of any bruises, burns, or other unexplained injuries
You may also want to set up a hidden camera to catch nursing home abuse. In a disturbing case in Ohio, the son of a nursing home resident with dementia set up a camera in his mother’s room and immediately discovered abuse.
“I began seeing changes in my mom. By then, I knew something was happening…When I put the camera on, I found abuse in the first two days. But I didn’t know how it was going to be handled.”
—Steven Piskor, son of Esther Piskor
Because of her son’s vigilance, a law was passed in her honor to give nursing home residents in Ohio the option to install cameras in rooms.
Once you have gathered evidence, you can present it to proper authorities like a nursing home ombudsman, the police, or an elder abuse attorney.
4. Contact a Nursing Home Ombudsman
A nursing home ombudsman advocates for residents’ rights and works to resolve problems with the residents’ best interests in mind.
By federal law, each state must have a nursing home ombudsman program. The ombudsman’s office will listen to your story and look at your evidence. From there, it will help you resolve the issues.
In some cases, it may be necessary to work with both law enforcement and the nursing home ombudsman if an older person is the victim of a crime.
In other cases, when medical costs or financial exploitation become too expensive for families to bear, they may need to speak with a nursing home lawyer to receive proper compensation.
5. Connect With a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
Nursing home abuse victims or their loved ones are highly encouraged to speak with a nursing home abuse lawyer. These attorneys have a wealth of resources and information that can be vital to helping you and your family.
A nursing home abuse lawyer can:
- Access financial compensation and hold a facility accountable
- Look at your evidence to see if you can file a lawsuit against the facility
- Help you through the legal process and get the most compensation available in your case
Skilled attorneys understand why abuse occurs in nursing homes and can use their experience with helping past clients to build the strongest case possible.
Your attorney may be able to help you file a nursing home lawsuit for:
- Breach of contract
- Elder abuse
- Medical malpractice
- Negligent hiring
- Nursing home wrongful death
In past cases, families who have worked with nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys have sometimes received $1 million or more.
However, it is important to keep in mind that nursing home abuse case values vary, which means you may receive more or less depending on the specifics of your case.
Get Help if You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect
Nursing home abuse can have devastating consequences for older people and their families. No senior deserves to suffer from abuse or neglect in a facility that’s supposed to be caring for them. Knowing what to do if you suspect nursing home abuse is the best way to keep your loved one safe.
If you think nursing home abuse or neglect has occurred, don’t wait: note any possible signs, gather evidence, and work with trusted authorities to get your loved one out of harm’s way.
You and your loved one might also be entitled to financial compensation if abuse or neglect occurs — learn more with a free case review.