Although elder abuse and neglect affects roughly 1.2 million elderly persons each year in the U.S., research indicates that many elder abuse cases go unnoticed or unreported. This can involve a number of circumstances. For some elderly patients, the nursing home or assisted living facility that they reside at is not conveniently located near family members and loved ones. If they are not seeing trusted friends or family members, the patients may feel that they have no one they can tell about the elder abuse. Furthermore, many elderly patients have problems with memory loss and communication.
Who Can File an Elder Abuse Complaint?
Any friend, family member, or loved one can file an elder abuse complaint. Furthermore, the elderly patient can file an elder abuse complaint directly. If the patient does not regularly see family, is not capable of communicating the elder abuse, or if the patient is attempting to hide the elder abuse, any other person that has contact with the elder may file an elder abuse complaint. This includes patient advocates, doctors, nurses, volunteers, maids, and even other elderly patients. Anyone can file an elder abuse complaint, and elder mistreatment assessments are available online if the person is unsure of the abuse.
Why Do People File an Elder Abuse Complaint?
An elder abuse complaint may be filed for any of the following reasons, which are protected by law:
– Violations of patient’s rights
– Unsafe facility conditions
– Inadequate food or water
– Inadequate nursing facility staffing
– Improper financial expenses
– Transfer concerns
– Discharge concerns
– Failure to readmit the patient after a hospital visit
– Poor medical care
– Verbal or emotional abuse
– Any other form of elder abuse, neglect, or mistreatment, including solitary confinement, lack of care and attention, physical restraints, physical abuse, or sexual abuse
When and Where Do People File Elder Abuse Complaints?
When elder abuse is suspected, it is best to act immediately. The complainant, or the person filing the elder abuse complaint, can contact the proper authorities through a hotline. Complainants may also search online for their state’s departments that specifically handle elder abuse. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) website, provided by the Administration on Aging (AoA), supplies all necessary state and U.S. territory resources for filing an elder abuse complaint.
What Information is Included in an Elder Abuse Complaint?
Complaints may be provided orally, or over the phone. They may also be provided in writing. Eventually, all elder abuse complaints will have to be filed as a written statement. When filing an elder abuse statement, it is important to include specific details of the elder abuse. Do not simply state, “The elder’s behavior has changed.” Instead, specify how the elder’s behavior has changed in detail: “The elder used to attend Sunday sermons and play bridge with her friends. She enjoyed putting on mascara, painting her nails, and styling her hair. Now, the elder refuses to socialize at bridge or church. Her appearance is haphazard. She has entirely given up on wearing make-up, perfume, or doing her own hair.”
In general, the elder abuse complaint should include the following information:
– The complainant’s name, address, phone number, and reason for contact with the abused elder.
– Name of the elder that is potentially being abused.
– Name and address of the nursing facility, or residence, of the abused elder.
– Specific and detailed complaints. If a specific person is suspected of the elder abuse, include the offender’s name.
– Date(s) and time(s) of the elder’s abuse. This should be as accurate as possible.
– Names of the nursing facility’s staff, the elder patient’s caretaker, or any other person that has regular contact with the elder and may be aware of elder abuse.
– Names of potential elder abuse witnesses, such as health care providers, social workers, volunteers, or specific staff members at the nursing facility.
– Any records that may provide evidence of elder abuse and should be examined by state authorities.
After an Elder Abuse Complaint
After a complainant files an elder abuse statement, the person should follow up with the elder and contact other authorities. The complainant should visit the elder as often as possible and should seek legal aid to protect the rights of the elder throughout the investigation. Local authorities should be warned of the potential elder abuse.
Any organization that supports elder health and long-term patient care will want to know of the incident. There may be other patients involved in the elder abuse, and they could be in danger even after the complaint is filed. By contacting other local organizations, the complainant is also ensuring that something will be done to improve the elder’s care – regardless of the outcome of the elder abuse investigation.
“Elder Mistreatment Assessment.” Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing. New York University, College of Nursing, n.d. Web. 20 May 2013. http://consultgerirn.org/uploads/File/trythis/try_this_15.pdf
“How to File a Complaint Against a Nursing Home.” California Advocates for Nuring Home Reform. CANHR, n.d. Web. 20 May 2013. http://www.canhr.org/factsheets/nh_fs/html/fs_NH_complaint.htm
United States. Department of Health and Human Services. National Center on Elder Abuse: Stop Abuse. Department of Aging, 2013. Web. http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/stop_abuse/index.aspx
United States. Medicare. Inspections and Complaints. Medicare, 2013. Web. http://www.medicare.gov/NursingHomeCompare/About/ICInfo/Inspections-and-Complaints-Info.aspx