As Beasley Allen has previously discussed, long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, are rife with abuse and neglect and alarmingly high rates of underreporting. Amid these mounting concerns, industry lobbyists continue fighting to roll back federal rules that protect the rights of residents (or their families and caregivers) to take nursing homes to court. While consumers’ options to hold nursing facilities accountable for the pain and suffering caused by their actions are limited, there are steps they can take to better protect themselves and their loved ones.
Research the health and safety records of nursing homes
Identifying a quality nursing home is challenging, and consumers should not rely on the star rating program, the Jere Beasley Report has explained. Rather, they can search for facilities by name or location on the Medicare website to review a summary of the nursing home’s latest inspection. Details of other inspections are also available and provide information about the health and safety of residents and the quality of residential care.
The Jere Beasley Report also discusses the importance of consumers arming themselves with information such as the corporate structure and history of a company providing the care. Researching what kind of incidents have been reported and how they were handled by the facility can also give prospective residents an idea of a facility’s environment and the quality of care.
Watch for and report signs of abuse or neglect
Nursing homes must meet a proper standard of care as established by law. Signs and symptoms of abuse or neglect include:
- bruises, black eyes, welts, lacerations, and rope marks;
- bone fractures, broken bones, and skull fractures;
- open wounds, cuts, punctures, untreated injuries in various stages of healing;
- sprains, dislocations, and internal injuries/bleeding;
- broken eyeglasses/frames, physical signs of being subjected to punishment, and signs of being restrained;
- laboratory findings of medication overdose or under-utilization of prescribed drugs;
- an elder’s report of being hit, slapped, kicked, or mistreated;
- an elder’s sudden change in behavior; and
- the caregiver’s refusal to allow visitors to see an elder alone.
- bruises around the breasts or genital area;
- unexplained venereal disease or genital infections;
- unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding;
- torn, stained, or bloody underclothing; and
- an elder’s report of being sexually assaulted or raped.
Emotional or psychological abuse
- being emotionally upset or agitated;
- being extremely withdrawn and non-communicative or non-responsive;
- unusual behavior usually attributed to dementia (e.g., sucking, biting, rocking); and
- an elder’s report of being verbally or emotionally mistreated.
- dehydration, malnutrition, untreated bed sores, and poor personal hygiene;
- unattended or untreated health problems;
- hazardous or unsafe living condition/arrangements (e.g., improper wiring, no heat, or no running water);
- unsanitary and unclean living conditions (e.g. dirt, fleas, lice on person, soiled bedding, fecal/urine smell, inadequate clothing); and
- an elder’s report of being mistreated.
If you believe a resident is subject to abuse or neglect, document the signs and contact local law enforcement authorities or dial 911 if there is an urgent need for assistance. You can also report incidents to the state long-term care ombudsman.
Learn more about the federal Ombudsman Program
Volunteers in every state are selected and specially trained by U.S. Department of Senior Services’ Agency on Aging to serve as local and state ombudsmen for nursing home residents and their families, according to the Jere Beasley Report. The ombudsmen visit with and advocate for residents. They are authorized to investigate and attempt to informally resolve complaints on behalf of residents. They also provide information about residents’ rights and quality care standards and other critical functions including collecting data on facilities. They “serve as a third-party mechanism for protecting the health, safety, welfare, and human rights” of the residents they represent.
* * *
If you need more information on nursing home litigation contact Chris Boutwell at 800-898-2034 or by email at Chris.Boutwell@beasleyallen.com. Chris handles nursing home litigation for our firm, and he will be glad to talk with you.
Jere Beasley Report
Long-Term Care Ombudsman