What to Do When You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect
Assisted living facilities are supposed to be a place for your loved one to maintain his or her social life without sacrificing safety or essential medical care when he or she can no longer live alone. Unfortunately, not all staff members at retirement, assisted living, and nursing homes care for their patients as they should.
Failures in care or outright abuse of patients in these environments fall into the legal category of nursing home neglect or abuse. In our previous blog, “3 Signs of Nursing Home Neglect to Watch Out For,” we discussed some of the most common signs of neglect problems in an assisted living environment.
In this blog, we go into more detail about the types and prevalence nursing home abuse and provide you with a guide to the steps you can and should take when you suspect that your loved one is enduring neglect or abuse.
Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse in the United States
Nursing home neglect of the types discussed in our previous blog are the most common types of personal injuries seen in this category. This type of neglect can occur due to budget cuts, understaffing or overcrowding, and lack of caretaker training and qualifications.
Despite neglect seeming more like an accident than an intentional infliction of harm, neglect that results in pain and injury to your loved one may still qualify as a personal injury under the law, especially if a nurse or other mandatory reporter fails to notify the authorities of the problem. In this case, the facility and the mandatory reporter may be liable.
The most recent study of nursing home neglect and abuse, performed in 2000 by the National Center on Elder Abuse, reported that 95 percent of responding residents had witnessed or experienced neglect within the last year.
Unfortunately, neglect is not the only type of nursing home abuse seen in the United States. In the same survey, 44 percent of respondents had experienced abuse in their facilities. Nursing home abuse may take the form of:
- Financial exploitation
- Mental and emotional abuse
- Physical violence
- Sexual assault
- Withholding of essential services, such as hygiene or medical care
In all of these cases, the staff members involved can be held legally responsible. Additionally, any staff members or facilities that knowingly covered up abuse may be liable for the harm caused to your loved one.
The signs of elder abuse you notice may vary according to the types of mistreatment your loved one has suffered. For example, individuals who have been physically or sexually abused may suddenly not want to be touched while those suffering a lack of crucial services may seem malnourished or unwashed when you visit.
Loved One’s Responsibilities and Options in These Cases
You have the ability to report abuse to stop it and the option to consult with a personal injury attorney regarding the viability of a nursing home abuse lawsuit.
If you find yourself in this situation, you may feel overwhelmed and intimidated by the prospect of knowing that your loved one’s health, safety, and wellbeing is in your hands. Knowing what to do can help you make confident decisions to protect your loved one.
If you suspect nursing home neglect or abuse, take the following steps:
- Call 911 for any necessary emergency services. If you believe the situation is life-threatening, call emergency services immediately.
- Contact local law enforcement, elder care services, and the district attorney. If the situation is not life-threatening, report the abuse to local authorities, including elder protective services.
- Document all evidence of the neglect or abuse. Keep a record of the reasons you suspect neglect or abuse, including photographs, witness accounts, and a log of changes in your loved one’s behavior. Also take down the names of specific staff members and administrators.
- Inquire about specific the conditions in the facility. While nursing home abuse is unfortunately common, not all situations are as they appear. For example, bruises can occur due to falls or convulsions. Talk to the staff about injuries and the facility. Note the answers you receive and the mannerisms of the staff.
- Make arrangements for your loved one to move to another facility or living situation. If staff members do not have satisfactory answers to your questions, move your loved one as soon as possible.
- Reach out to an attorney for advice on collecting evidence and filing a lawsuit. An attorney can expedite the prosecution process and help your loved one file a personal injury claim or help you file on his or her behalf.
Throughout this process, use your best judgment to keep your loved one as safe and comfortable as possible.
If you notice any signs of nursing home neglect, like those discussed in our previous blog, or other signs of elder abuse, don’t wait to address the issue. Protect your loved one by taking the steps outlined above.
For expert legal assistance with nursing home neglect and abuse personal injury claims, consult with the experienced and compassionate team at Shay & Associates Law Firm.