According to the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, the Nursing Home Reform Act entitles the residents of nursing homes to safe environments. Nursing home residents are also entitled to the care and treatment they need to improve or maintain both their physical as well as their mental wellbeing. A failure to provide them with such treatment and care can be tantamount to abuse. Nursing home abuse should be reported to nursing home staff, a local ombudsman, a doctor, or 911. The Eldercare Locator may also be used.
Before you can report instances of abuse, you must be able to identify abuse. Here are some of the telltale signs that a nursing home resident may be abused:
- Emotional and behavioral changes
- Silence in the presence of staff
- Unexplained financial transactions
- Unexplained weight loss
- Bruises, especially around the genitals
- Physical pain or discomfort
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Where to Report Abuse
This is how to report nursing home abuse. Depending on when you first suspect abuse to have occurred and the extent to which it may have occurred, you should report the abuse to one of the following.
Nursing Home Staff
If you have a basic concern such as access to care or food and do not suspect outright abuse, it may help to bring the issue to the attention of a supervisor, a social worker, the nursing director, or an administrator at the nursing home. In cases involving unintentional oversights–for example, an issue with an elder resident’s room temperature caused by a faulty thermostat–on-site workers can often resolve the issue quickly and easily.
If you fear the worst and suspect that your elder loved one is being abused at his or her nursing home, call 911. This is recommended by both the National Center on Elder Abuse and the National Institute of Aging as the first line of defense against life-threatening cases of abuse. Contacting 911 will not only bring issues at the nursing home to the attention of local authorities but it will allow you–and local law enforcement–to probe more into potential issues at the facility.
Eldercare Locator and the NCEA
You can contact Eldercare Locator for services in your area that can help protect the rights of your elderly loved one. The National Center on Elder Abuse can also help connect you to resources that can help if you suspect abuse in a nursing home setting. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends using the Eldercare Locator to speak with a trained operator who can help you with the steps you should take if you suspect or have documented proof of elder abuse.
A Doctor or Medical Expert
You can also reach out to your loved one’s doctor to report suspected abuse. The doctor can schedule a checkup that will provide you with the opportunity to have your loved one physically assessed for abuse. If worrying signs of abuse are identified, you can escalate the issue with local authorities or contact an attorney for legal assistance.
Long-Term Care Ombudsman
An ombudsman is an official who is sometimes appointed by the government or local authorities. An ombudsman’s mandate includes investigating complaints–usually complaints that are lodged by private citizens–against organizations or businesses. Nursing homes can be investigated by an ombudsman. In most cases, the goal is to resolve a specific conflict or address a given concern via mediation or recommendations. Every state has a program for long-term care ombudsman services.
Medicare and Medicaid
Government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid both have dedicated representatives tasked with helping the families of the elderly residents of nursing homes identify, report, and follow up with issues of abuse or suspected abuse.
Many states require those on the front lines of care–such as doctors, nurses, and social workers–to report abuse and neglect, including suspected abuse and neglect. Sometimes referred to as mandated reporters, you can contact these professionals for assistance with an elder abuse case. When considering how to report nursing home abuse, reach out to the authorities or representatives that can provide the quickest and safest resolution to your elder loved one’s issues.
Confidentiality and Legal Assistance
Many instances of elder abuse go unreported because of the fear on the part of an elder nursing home resident or his or her family of retaliation from staff or administration of a nursing home. Government services such as local law enforcement and even private complaints lodged with authority figures such as an ombudsman are usually kept private and confidential to protect victims from any form of retaliation.
If all else fails or if your loved one suffered serious forms of neglect or abuse, you may have to change how you report nursing home abuse, and in some cases, you may wish to have your case investigated by an attorney. The team at Ben Crump Law, PLLC can be reached at (800) 959-1444. Contact us for a free case evaluation. We take nursing home abuse cases on a contingency basis and you pay nothing unless you win.