What to do if you Suspect Nursing Home Abuse

When someone is placed in a nursing home, we expect them to be given quality care. After all, that's what nursing homes are for: to give a level and quality of care which the resident's family is unable to provide personally.

Most nursing homes can and do provide quality care for their residents. If, however, you have reason to suspect nursing home abuse, you should take action. Never allow suspected abuse to continue unchecked. Here's what you should do:

  1. Be rational. When your loved one is in a nursing home and you suspect abuse, it's easy to lose your temper. However, it's important for your loved one's sake that you remain calm and seek a resolution to the situation in a reasonable manner.
  2. Question the nursing home staff and management regarding any signs of suspected abuse. What you perceive as abuse may not be, and you should be willing to hear the staff out before taking further action. If they are unable or unwilling to explain the situation satisfactorily, you will want to look into more formal action. Nursing home management should be willing and able to explain any situation you see as possible abuse or neglect, whether it pertains to your loved one directly or not.
  3. Speak with your loved one about the situation. Ideally, you should speak to him or her privately. If the nursing home management will not allow this for any reason, you will want to take further action. Report the suspected abuse and/or seek the advice of an attorney who specializes in nursing home abuse and neglect. Be aware that those in nursing home care may be reluctant to speak out about abuse for a number of reasons, ranging from fear to simply not wanting to worry you.
  4. Be nosy and take notes. Quality caregivers will not mind your questioning as long as you are respectful and reasonable. Take written notes of anything you see which is amiss. Take pictures, get names and job positions of the people you speak to, and talk with coherent residents who are willing to talk with you and who may have information about the incident. Bring it to the attention of the nursing home management. If it isn't taken care of quickly, bring it to the attention of the authorities or a lawyer.
  5. Call the police if there is clear abuse and/or imminent danger. If there is clear cut abuse, or if you have reason to believe a nursing home resident is in imminent danger of harm, call the police immediately. At the very least, you should be asked to file a complaint. In some cases, police may need to intervene to ensure the safety of nursing home residents.
  6. Report all suspected elder abuse or neglect. Each state has some form of protective services for adults. If you are not sure who to contact in your state, call the National Center on Elder Abuse at 1-800-677-1116. In addition, each nursing home must publicly post the name and telephone number of the local Ombudsman. This is the individual responsible for ensuring the neglect and abuse are investigated in long term care facilities. If you can't find the number, ask the nursing home administrator or call your local law enforcement agency and request the information. 
  7. Consult a lawyer. If a nursing home resident or your loved one is being abused or neglected, he or she is entitled to protection. He may also be entitled to compensation under the law. Depending on your relationship to him or her, you may also be entitled to compensation as well. Reporting abuse and neglect is essential, but most abusive facilities don't change unless formal legal action is taken that affects their profit margins or their ability to remain in business. 

Whatever you do, don't adopt a wait and see mindset. If you have reason to believe a nursing home resident is being abused or inadequately cared for, take action sooner rather than later. Reporting abuse and neglect is the only way to put a stop to the behavior, especially if the abused resident is unable to speak for herself. Consulting a lawyer reinforces the seriousness of the behavior and ensures that swift corrective action is taken and the quality of life for all the residents of the facility is enhanced by your actions. 

If you or a loved one is the victim of nursing home abuse, contact the lawyers at Sweeney Law Firm to learn your legal rights and see if you have a case. There is no cost or obligation for us to evaluate your case. The Sweeney Law Firm works on a contingency fee basis. There is never a fee unless a recovery is made for you.