Nursing homes are supposed to provide elder care to those who can no longer live without complete medical supervision. While this is true in most cases, there are also those whose staff members treat the elderly in abusive ways. Unfortunately, many cases of elder abuse in nursing homes go unreported. This can be due to fear, the older patient’s inability to properly communicate what is going on, or even due to memory issues such as those that occur with dementia.
Studies conducted by the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee showed that 30% of the nursing homes in the United States had violations. A majority of these violations were due to inadequate medical treatment, malnutrition, severe dehydration, insufficient hygiene and sanitation measures, preventable accidents, and bedsores. When you consider that elder abuse includes any physical, sexual, financial, or emotional abuse – including negligence – it becomes apparent that this is a serious problem.
Detecting ill-treatment in a nursing home is not always easy, but there are some signs that may be able to help family members and loved ones determine that there is a problem. These can include:
- Unexplained bruises or bleeding
- Marked changes in behavior
- Changes to will or power of attorney
- Emotional withdrawal
- Sudden change in finances, such as bills not being paid
- Silence or fearful behavior around caregivers
- Unexplained or sudden illnesses or diseases
- Visible physical discomfort
If you notice any of these signs, abuse could be occurring. One of the most effective means of preventing abuse is to make sure that you visit your loved one frequently. In many cases, abuse is seen in those who don’t have much contact with the outside world. You should also attempt to talk to the patient if he or she can communicate well. Just understand that your loved one may be fearful of the consequences of letting you know about the abuse.
Proper Reporting of Nursing Home Abuse
If you have noticed signs of abuse, it is up to you to report the situation to the proper authorities. This can be accomplished in a few different ways:
- If the abuse is severe, your first call should always be to 911.
- If the elder’s health care team is not a part of the abuse, you can contact his or her doctor, social worker, care advocate, or any other member. Members of the healthcare team will be able to assist you in determining the best course of action to protect the patient.
- Go to the Administration on Aging’s National Center on Elder Abuse website and choose your state. This will provide you with the information you need to report the abuse to the right agency.
It should be noted that some individuals are required by law to report any suspected abuse. This includes any government workers, doctors, and social workers who have reason to believe that an elderly person is being abused. Some states even require all citizens who have information about abuse to report. When you file the nursing home abuse report, you will need to make sure that you provide accurate, complete information and details to avoid any unnecessary delays in getting help for your loved one.
Once you have filed a report, the first step will be locating a new facility for the elderly patient. You will need to make sure that the facility provides proper care, and always take the time to visit the facility before moving your loved one. If possible, have the patient visit the location with you to interact with staff and other patients before the move. After the move, make sure that someone regularly visits to prevent any further abuse.