Nursing home abuse is a difficult problem. It is difficult because nursing home abuse can be hard to define and identify. When it does occur, nursing home abuse frequently goes unreported. The elderly patient may not see loved ones very often, which makes it unlikely for anyone to notice changes in appearance or behavior. Furthermore, an elderly patient may suffer from memory loss or communication problems. As a result, elderly patients experiencing certain medical limitations can have trouble vocalizing the nursing home abuse.
Research suggests that most cases of nursing home abuse go unreported. This involves all forms of elder abuse, including physical, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse. However, the rates of reported nursing home abuse are still staggering. During a two-year study, the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee discovered nursing home violations in roughly 30-percent of U.S. nursing homes. The most common nursing home problems included malnutrition, dehydration, bedsores, inadequate sanitation or hygiene, inadequate medical services, and preventable accidents.
How to Report Nursing Home Abuse
If nursing home abuse is suspected and reported, it can still be difficult to prove. There are physical and behavioral indicators of nursing home abuse, but many of these markers are time-sensitive. The best way to prevent nursing home abuse from happening to a loved one is to visit the elderly patient often. If nursing home abuse does occur, there are a series of steps that can be taken. When reporting nursing home abuse, following these steps can increase the chances of conviction for the offender.
Nursing Home Abuse Warning Signs
Watch for signs of nursing home abuse or neglect, including:
- Emotional withdrawal
- Silence around caretakers
- Changes in behavior
- Changes in the elderly patient’s will
- Changes in the elder’s power of attorney
- Sudden financial problems, such as unpaid bills
- Unexplained bruises
- Bruises or marks near the elder’s genitals
- Sudden or unexplained infections, viruses, or diseases
- Physical discomfort
Where to Report Nursing Home Abuse
Once a person has picked up on signs of nursing home abuse, they have a duty to report the incident. If the person is a doctor, social worker, or other form of government worker, the person is required by law to report nursing home abuse cases. There are also specific states that require all citizens, regardless of vocation, to report suspected nursing home abuse. It is important to include specific details of the elder abuse or neglect when reporting nursing home abuse.
To report nursing home abuse, a person can contact their local state authorities through the following methods:
- Contact the Eldercare Locator, at 1-800-677-1116, during weekdays to find out any specific state information that may apply.
- Use the state resources page of the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) by the Administration on Aging (AoA) to find the proper authorities for reporting nursing home abuse in that specific state. Depending on the state, there may be one hotline number to call or there may be a variety of contact methods, including phone numbers, addresses, and websites.
- Contact the elder’s primary health care doctor, social worker, elder patient advocate, or other member of the elder’s immediate health care team, provided they are not involved in the nursing home abuse. Seek their professional guidance on the nursing home abuse case.
- If it is a severe case of nursing home abuse, call 911 immediately and seek legal counsel.
After Reporting Nursing Home Abuse
After a person reports nursing home abuse, there are still a number of issues to be addressed. Many families hire an experienced nursing home abuse attorney to help with this stressful process. The biggest problem is that the elder will either need to be moved home or to a new skilled nursing facility. Many elderly patients are resistant to these types of changes. The elder may have friends at his or her current nursing home. Even though his or her current living situation may be very bad, the elder may also believe that the next nursing home could be worse.
Finding a new nursing home facility or residence for the elder is a process that should handled with great care. First and foremost, the new nursing home should be located within a close proximity to at least one of the elder’s family members. The best way to prevent future nursing home abuse is to have a loved one visit the elder regularly. The elder patient should visit the home several times, interacting with the other nursing home residents and nursing home staff.
The elder’s family should ensure that the facility is clean and meets any medical requirements the elder may have. The family should research the staff-to-patient ratio, and ask questions regarding other patients’ experiences at the nursing home. It is best to talk directly with other families that have an elder patient residing at the nursing home. This will provide the clearest idea of what care at that particular nursing home facility is like.
Robinson, Lawrence, and Joanna Saisan. “Reporting Elder Abuse.” Help Guide. Harvard Health Publications, n.d. Web. 20 May 2013. http://www.helpguide.org/mental/reporting_elder_abuse.htm
Ruppe, David. “Elderly Abused at 1 in 3 Nursing Homes: Report.” ABC News. (2008): n. page. Web. 20 May 2013. http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=92689&page=1%20-%20.UahlFqTD9ec#.Ubdel6TD9dg
United States. Department of Health and Human Services. Elder Care Locator. Department of Aging, 2013. Web. http://www.eldercare.gov/eldercare.net/Public/Index.asp&xgt
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.asp&xgt
More Sources on Reporting Nursing Home Abuse