Nursing Home Abuse is Largely Underreported in California
Residents in long-term care facilities are frail and especially vulnerable to abuse. Nursing homes are supposed to provide care for senior citizens in a safe and healthy environment and protect them from the negative effects of aging and related conditions. However, according to a report in the New York Times, more than 90% of U.S. nursing homes were cited for federal health and safety violations in 2007. The report found that about 17% of nursing homes had deficiencies that caused "actual harm or immediate jeopardy" to residents. Abuse is nursing homes is under reported for many reasons, including the victim being embarrassed, made to believe they are at fault, or afraid they will only experience more abuse. Because elderly adults and nursing home abuse may not be able to fully communicate abuse or neglect, it is important for family members to recognize common signs of abuse.
Recognizing Signs of Nursing Home Neglect
California state law and the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act clearly state that the nursing home residents have the right to be free from abuse and neglect. Negligence at nursing homes can take many forms, including employees at the nursing home failing to recognize a resident's basic medical needs, improper supervision resulting in patient falls, negligent maintenance of equipment or medical devices, improper maintenance of nursing home premises, and even negligent hiring of employees. Signs of neglect can vary, but include evidence of bedsores, bruising, chocking, dehydration, infections, medication overdoses, rapid weight loss, sepsis and ulcers.
Recognizing Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse may be physical, emotional, financial, and even sexual abuse. Signs of physical abuse include assault and battery, unexplained physical injuries, unnecessary or unreasonable physical restraint, overmedicating or undermedicating, and imprisonment. Signs of emotional or verbal abuse include depression, withdrawal, sadness, and unusual behavior. Causes of abuse include caregiver stress, inadequate training of staff, inadequate supervision of staff, and high staff turnover at residential care facilities.
What to Do if you Suspect Nursing Home Abuse or Nursing Home Neglect
It is important to report suspected abuse because it may prevent it from occurring in the future. Suspected abuse of elders in long-term care facilities should be reported to either the Local Ombudsman Program or law enforcement. The phone number of the Local Ombudsman Office can be obtained by calling 1-800-231-4024. You may also call the Statewide CRISISline number 1-800-231-4024. This CRISISline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to take calls and refer complaints from residents. In addition to reporting the suspected abuse or neglect, you should contact an attorney who handles California nursing home abuse civil cases. You and your loved ones may be entitled to compensation in a civil suit.