Making the decision to place a parent in a nursing home is often one of the most difficult decisions you will ever make. Once the decision is made, continuing to worry about the quality of care your parent is receiving at the facility is fairly normal. What happens though, if you start to believe that your concerns have merit? What do you do if you suspect, for example, that your mother is actually being abused at the nursing home? Consider the following if you suspect your parent or other loved one is the victim of nursing home abuse.
Nursing Home Abuse Facts and Figures
As the number of older Americans has increased dramatically in recent years, so has the need for caregivers to care for them. While that need has created some truly innovative programs and facilities where seniors receive compassionate and competent care, it has also allowed abuse to flourish in some facilities. Consider the following facts and figures relating to nursing home abuse:
- Between 1999 and 2001, almost one-third of all nursing home facilities were cited for violations of federal standards that could cause harm, or that did harm elderly residents of those facilities;
- Nearly 10% of those homes had violations that posed a risk of serious injury or death, or that did cause deaths of elderly residents;
- More than 40% of nursing home residents have reported abuse, and more than 90% report that they or another resident of the facility have been neglected;
- Research from 2010 indicates that up to half of all nursing home attendants have admitted abusing or neglecting elderly patients;
- More than half of all Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA’s) in elder care facilities have admitted verbally abusing, yelling at, and using foul language with elderly residents of care facilities.
- According to Long-Term Care Ombudsman programs in 2003, there were more than 20 thousand complaints of exploitation, neglect and abuse coming from nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The most common type of abuse reported was physical abuse.
- The most recent studies indicate that 7-10 percent of the elderly suffered from at least one episode of abuse within the past year. Ten percent were cases unrelated to financial exploitation.
What Can I Do If I Suspect Abuse?
As an adult child, there are few feelings worse than the fear that someone is abusing or neglecting your parent. While your parent may seem helpless, you are not. You can do something about your suspicions, such as:
- Try to discuss your concerns. When possible, it is always good to confirm your suspicions. Unfortunately, victims of elder abuse, in general, are often embarrassed or ashamed to be a victim, making them reluctant to admit the abuse to anyone. If your loved one suffers from dementia, it will be even more difficult to discuss your suspicions.
- Confront the facility administrator. This may, or may not, be helpful. Unfortunately, administrators sometimes worry more about the facility’s exposure to legal liability than they do about harm done to a resident. Nonetheless, you need to try and discuss your concerns before moving on to the next step.
- File a formal complaint. In the State of California, nursing home complaints are investigated by the Licensing and Certification Division of the California Department of Public Health (DPH). If you live in the Sacramento area, the district office address for filing a complaint is: 3901 Lennane Dr., Ste. 210, Sacramento, CA 95834. You can also file a complaint online through the agency’s website. If the facility is outside the Sacramento area, you can find the appropriate district office information on the agency’s directory.
- File a report with local law enforcement. Elder abuse is a crime and should be reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency. Whether the subsequent investigation results in an arrest and conviction or not, the local authorities need to know about the abuse.
- Consult with an elder abuse attorney. Elder abuse can also be the basis for a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator and/or the facility. In addition, if your loved one is reluctant to speak out, or is suffering from dementia, you may need to petition for conservatorship in order to move your loved one to a new facility. For these reasons, you need to consult with an experienced elder abuse attorney as soon as you suspect abuse.
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding nursing home abuse, contact an attorney who focuses his or her practice on elder abuse and neglect cases.