Recent studies report that elder abuse is a serious and growing problem in nursing homes. With the American population living longer, this issue is only going to increase. Nursing home abuse is a heartbreaking problem, but to make it worse, this problem also goes largely unreported.
When an abuse incident occurs, Medicare rules require that the incident is reported to law enforcement right away. If this abuse is reported appropriately, the truth is that the nursing home could be fined up to $300,000. A recent audit by Health and Human Services reported that Medicare isn’t adequately enforcing this law, which is leaving our elderly at risk.
When an incident occurs, the law says that nursing home staff is required to report any incident that results in serious bodily injury within 2 hours of discovery. If the incident didn’t cause serious bodily injury, the facility has 24 hours to report it.
It is important to be aware that when nursing home abuse occurs, the victims have remedies available to them through both criminal and civil law.
What to Look For
Because these incidents often go unreported, it is important to know what to look for. If your loved one is in a nursing home, it is important to stay vigilant and always be aware of any unusual changes or signs of distress. You are their best advocate. Be on the lookout for:
Physical or Sexual Abuse: These types of abuse are the easiest to spot. Look for bruises, frequent falls, broken bones and bed sores. Falls are a common problem, which can be a result of an understaffed facility.
Emotional Abuse: This type of abuse is more difficult to identify. However, you probably know your loved one better than anyone else, and it will be apparent that something is “off.” Perhaps there is an unexplained change in behavior which can range from depression, to anger. They may become withdrawn or sleep more than usual.
Financial Exploitation: Signs of financial exploitation can include your loved one receiving uncharacteristically excessive or expensive gifts, or people being reimbursed by your loved one for care of companionship.
Neglect: The signs of neglect can include lack of basic hygiene, the lack of needed medical aids (walkers, wheelchairs, etc.). It can also include signs of malnutrition, dehydration, or physical injuries that aren’t healing properly (bedsores, for instance).
What Should I Do?
If you suspect that your loved one could be a victim of nursing home abuse, it is important to take prompt action. If the injuries you observe appear life threatening, call 911. If their injuries aren’t life threatening, contact your local law enforcement agency.
There are also several other agencies that can assist you in reporting the incident. These include Adult Protective Services, The National Council of Child Abuse and Family Violence, and the U.S. Administration on Aging.
Call us for guidance. We know that seeing your loved one injured is a stressful experience, and you may not know where to turn. Contact us today to learn more about your rights and options and to determine the best course of action.