Nursing home abuse often times goes unreported to law enforcement or the proper authorities. If you suspect abuse or you are seeing warning signs, then you should know how to report it and to whom you should report any forms of abuse.
Making the difficult decision to place a loved one into a nursing home can be a very stressful time for the person, as well as the family. You research the best place for them. You visit the facilities, talk to the staff, and make sure that this home is the best option for them.
But what if the place you choose isn’t as great as you thought it was? What if you visit your loved one in their new home and notice things are a little off? Nursing home abuse is more common than you think, and it often goes unreported. You may not be exactly sure what is going on, and sometimes your loved one can’t verbalize what they may be experiencing.
Nursing home patients often suffer from dementia and other forms of memory loss, and maybe can’t be too sure certain things actually happened. Even though it is often unreported, the rates of the abuse that is reported is higher than you may think.
The Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee did a two year study that made some very alarming discoveries. They found that around 30% of nursing homes in the United States had very obvious signs of nursing abuse. The most common ones they found were malnutrition, bedsores, inadequate sanitation or hygiene, dehydration, preventable accidents, and inadequate medical services.
If you suspect nursing home abuse, you should absolutely report it. Unfortunately, it can oftentimes be difficult to prove. The physical and behavioral indicators are usually very obvious ways to prove abuse, but those “tip-offs” are time sensitive. One of the best ways to make sure your loved one isn’t a victim of nursing home abuse is to visit them on a regular basis.
Being present and being with your loved one can be very beneficial, in more ways than one. When visiting, keep an eye out for any signs of stress, neglect, or changes in their health.
Signs of Abuse
Even though you yourself might not witness the abuse, or your loved one can’t tell you it’s going on, you can look for these warning signs:
- Unexplained bruising
- Changes in their behaviors
- Financial problems (unpaid/late bills)
- Changes in the patient’s power of attorney
- Bruising near genitals
- Physical discomfort
- Sudden and frequent unexplained infections, disease, or viruses
How to Report Nursing Home Abuse
By law, doctors, nurses, social workers, and other healthcare professionals are required to report any signs of nursing home abuse. Once you notice something isn’t right, here are a few ways to report it.
Contact Eldercare Locator
This program is there to provide you with any state laws and regulations that you may need to know before reporting abuse. You may not be sure about certain laws, or maybe just want more information on your concern. The locator is a very helpful resource, and the hotline number is 800-677-1116
National Elder Care Abuse Page
This can be found through Administration of Aging. This site will provide you the proper phone numbers and contact information of who should be notified indoor area. Sometimes you may not be exactly who to contact, or who can help you the best. This site will give you all the information you need to easily report possible elder abuse.
Contact The Doctor
This may seem the most simple solution, but it’s a good one. Your loved one’s doctor knows them very well, and has easy access to their charts. They would absolutely be able to check on what you are reporting, and confirm your suspicions, or get to the bottom of the situation.
If you witness the abuse, call the police. You should not be worried about repercussions if you are wrong. The police will investigate thoroughly and will help you feel at ease.
After Reporting Abuse
After you report the abuse, your next step would be to hire an attorney that specializes in nursing home abuse cases. The patient should be moved to a different nursing home, or somewhere they are safe. This adds more stress to an already terrible situation, but it is very important to their wellbeing to be out of that facility.
Evidence of Abuse
It is also imperative that you document the signs of the abuse. Being very specific in your statements and reporting can make all of the difference. This will be very helpful for your attorney if legal action need to be taken. These documentations include:
- Writing down the descriptions of the patient’s injuries
- Written statements from any witnesses who saw/suspects the abuse
- Taking pictures of their injuries
- Noting any changes in the patient’s behavior
- Written statements from the patient themselves
You should never feel like you are overreacting when you see signs of nursing home abuse. It is better to report possible abuse and it turn out to be nothing than to have to deal with a tragic ending.
A Confidential Report
Depending the type and severity of the abuse, the report could remain confidential. This would make it easier for the professionals at the facility to report signs of abuse, especially if they suspect one of their colleagues is the abuser. You should always be very adamant about reporting suspected abuse.
Another option for reporting nursing home abuse is researching your state’s Long Term Care Ombudsman Program. This program provides nursing home residents with their own advocates that help them with any complaints them may have, as well as enhance their overall quality of life. This program is usually free of charge, and the Ombudsmen are able to:
- Provide information of different nursing home options
- Work with the current nursing home’s staff to make changes
- Listen to the concerns of the patient and their family members
- Inform residents of their rights and possible legal actions
- Get law enforcement involved, if necessary.
Keeping an Eye Out
While placing your loved one in a nursing home can be scary and unknown, it usually can be the best thing for them. Having someone to attend to their needs 24/7 can be a huge help and a burden lifted off of the family.
Whenever you visit your loved one, be sure to take a look around. Keep an eye out for anything that seems out of order, and make sure that your loved one is happy and healthy. If you ever suspect there is nursing home abuse going on, the bottom line is to report it. And remember, time is of the essence.