Nursing Home Abuse: What Can You Do?

Posted On: April 28, 2016 under

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2014 the United States had 15,600 nursing homes with 1.4 million residents. This number is expected to increase as baby boomers continue to age and need assistance that family members oftentimes cannot provide. Because of this, it is imperative that we pay attention to the level and type of care our elderly are receiving in nursing homes and residential care facilities. As both individuals and as a community, we should care for our aging population and make sure that their caregivers treat them with the respect and attention they deserve. Prevent nursing home abuse and ensure that your loved one is being cared for properly.

Most nursing homes do their best to take care of their residents, and many fully succeed in this goal. However, all nursing homes are not created equal. In some, due to staff and budget shortages, lax hiring practices, or facilities in disrepair, residents end up neglected or abused. This can obviously have serious health consequences for an aging, at-risk population and can tragically even end in death.

The potential for nursing home abuse or neglect should be on the mind of anyone looking to place his or her loved one into a nursing home. This is an important consideration, especially because there are things that can be done to decrease the chances of becoming a victim. Medicare provides a checklist of items to keep in mind when choosing a nursing home. It focuses on things such as whether the home is Medicaid and Medicare certified, how the residents appear when you visit (i.e., are they clean and dressed appropriately), how clean and comfortable the home appears, how the staff treats the residents and whether a registered nurse is always present, what safety practices are in place in the home and how they are implemented, what food and activities are available to the residents, and how and when family members can visit. There are also certain signs to watch for that may indicate abuse or neglect, including things such as bedsores, poor grooming, sudden weight loss, and unexplained injuries. Any change in personality or indications of depression such as withdrawal should also be investigated because these things can be tied to abuse and neglect.

Choosing a nursing home, and monitoring one after your loved one lives there, is a complicated process, and it pays to do your research. Here in Tennessee, as of fall of 2010, all nursing homes are required by law to run a registry check on potential employees, which includes checking the sex offender registries and adult abuse registries of any state the potential employee has lived in for the past seven years; people whose names appear on any of those lists are prohibited from providing patient care. The state’s Department of Health can help you in your research because it maintains an Abuse Registry that anyone can search by name and a toll-free number that anyone can call to find out more about elder abuse and specific nursing homes.

The Tennessee Department of Human Services also has a detailed description of “abuse or neglect,” “exploitation,” and “sexual abuse” as they apply to nursing home residents, which makes it clear what isn’t allowed by law. All of these things together aim to protect and care for our vulnerable, aging loved ones as best as possible. Making use of these services can help you in providing a safe and happy home for your loved one. If you suspect nursing home abuse, consult a nursing home neglect attorney to file claims and build a case on your family’s behalf.