As the Baby Boomer generation ages and more families turn to nursing homes for care of the elderly, nursing home abuse and neglect remain significant and disturbing facts of American life. According to studies by the federal government, approximately 30% of nursing homes have incidents of abuse and or neglect. “Elder Abuse” is the intentional injury, undue confinement, intimidation, deprivation of care or service, or punishment causing harm, pain or anguish. “Elder Neglect” is failure to provide necessary care and services or failure to react to potential danger, causing harm, pain or anguish.
The ideal approach to nursing home abuse and neglect is to avoid them by gathering as much information as possible about nursing homes.
First, Medicare provides information and comparison of nursing homes here: http://www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare/search.html By entering the zip code, you will receive access to nursing homes within a 100 mile radius and will be able to compare 3 nursing homes at a time regarding staffing, inspections, complaints, reported incidents and deficiencies, among other information.
Second, states maintain agencies overseeing, inspecting, requiring and investigating incident reports. In California, for example, nursing homes are regulated by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). This agency investigates reported incidents of elder abuse and neglect in nursing homes, issues plans of correction, imposes penalties and maintains records. These records are a little tougher to view because they do not reside online. They are available for review at each nursing home and at the CDPH Licensing and Certification Division (L&C) local district offices.
Third, you can view the sex offender registry to see whether an offender’s address is the same as the facility. The national registry is found here http://www.familywatchdog.us/ and it will lead you to local registries.
Fourth, you can consult with local doctors and families who have used the facility to find out what they think of it and/or have heard about it.
Fifth, you can visit the facility, observe, ask questions and pay attention to whatever your “gut” is telling you. All these steps are aimed at avoiding the problems of elder abuse and neglect.
What do you do if an elderly person is already in a nursing home?
First, you should watch for signs of abuse and neglect. Those signs can include: unexplained injuries or bruises; dehydration; unusual upset or agitation; unusual withdrawal, isolation or lack of communication; fear of specific people, gender or races; infections; wandering, malnutrition; bed sores; rapid weight loss or weight gain; a reluctance to speak when a staff member is there; unsanitary conditions; sudden changes in behavior; sudden talk about sex when the person didn’t talk about sex before; heavy medication; frequent illnesses; failure to report illnesses and injuries to the person’s doctor and family.
Second, if you see clear signs of elder abuse or neglect, call 911 and immediately and have that poor person immediately removed and transported to a hospital by emergency medical services.
Third, if you are unsure of whether there is elder abuse or neglect, consult with a lawyer in your state who specializes in Elder Care and Nursing Home Abuse/Neglect and find out whether a hidden camera can be placed in the person’s room to record any incidents of abuse or neglect. If you can legally place a hidden camera in the room, do it.
Fourth, you can also consult with that lawyer regarding civil and criminal actions that can be taken against the perpetrator and the nursing home.
Fifth, your state may also provide ways for you to file incident complaint. In California, for example, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) provides an online complaint form, found here: href="http://hfcis.cdph.ca.gov/LongTermCare/ConsumerComplaint.aspx The CDPH investigates complaints and can impose severe penalties on nursing homes while warning others about the violations. The most important realizations about nursing home elder abuse and neglect are that: they exist in significant numbers; they might be avoided with sufficient information; they can be detected; they can be successfully fought through civil and criminal laws.
DO’S AND DON’TS
DON’T be intimidated by the people or the process.
DO gathering information about nursing homes through Medicare’s http://www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare/search.html
DO gather information about nursing homes through your state’s agency regulating nursing homes.
DO gather information through the sex offender registry found here http://www.familywatchdog.us/
DO discuss specific nursing homes with local doctors and families that have used the nursing homes.
DO visit the facilities.
DO watch for signs of abuse and neglect.
DO call 911 if you see clear signs of abuse or neglect.
DO consult/retain a lawyer who specializes in Elder Care and Nursing Home Abuse/Neglect.
DO place a hidden camera in the person’s room if allowed by law.
DO consult with your specialist lawyer about civil and criminal actions that can be taken against an offending nursing home and its staff.
DO file a complaint with your state’s agency regulating nursing homes (in California, at href="http://hfcis.cdph.ca.gov/LongTermCare/ConsumerComplaint.aspx
By Kathy Catanzarite
[Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information cannot be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither HandelontheLaw.com, or any of its affiliates, shall have any liability stemming from this article.]
Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.
ELDER CARE/NURSING HOME ABUSE DOS AND DON'TS