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What should I do if I suspect a relative in a nursing home is being abused?

We place our elderly relatives in a nursing home in the hope that they will receive the best care possible. Unfortunately, despite all of our best intentions and research, elder abuse does exist. There are many different types of elder abuse, including:

Neglect- For example, if a nursing home does not adequately feed a resident and they become malnourished, they do not assist a resident with trips to the bathroom and they are forced to soil themselves, or bed bound residents are not properly moved in their bed and they develop bed sores.

False Imprisonment- If a nursing home forces a resident to stay in their room or a certain part of the facility against their will, or keeps them from their crutches, wheelchair, or other necessary mobility aid.

Financial Abuse- This may occur when staff steals personal property from a resident, obtains bank information or credit cards and uses the residents assets without their permission, or when a facility collects money for erroneous or unnecessary billings.

Nursing home abuse can be a difficult situation to prove. Your relative may not wish to talk about it because they are scared of their abuser, who may have threatened them with further abuse. It can also be difficult to gather necessary information to prove the presence of abuse. If you suspect that your loved one is being abused, there are a number of things that you can do to help your relative feel comfortable discussing their situation, get them to safety and provide help.

1. Listen to your relative. If they are unwilling to talk to you, consider taking them to an authority figure, such as their personal doctor, who they will trust with their story. If it is possible, seek out other members of the nursing home who may be able to add credibility to your relatives story.

2. Document anything that you can. Take pictures of sores or other injuries. Save billing information that does not look correct. Cancel any financial information that may be jeopardized and keep statements that may show false charges.

3. Get in touch with the proper authorities. If you are unsure of who to contact, the local police department will be able to point you to social services, adult protective services, or any local elder abuse agencies.

4. Consider hiring an attorney that is familiar with elder abuse, neglect, personal injury, and more. An attorney with an intimate knowledge of nursing home care can also be beneficial when trying to navigate what can be a complex process.

Nursing homes actively work to not be sued. Besides the obvious difficulties in proving that abuse is occurring, the corporations that own nursing homes will seek to bury anyone bringing suits against them in complex and intricate paperwork.

Residents of a nursing home have the right to be free of abuse. In fact, any care facility that accepts payments from Medicare or Medicaid are bound by the federal Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA) of 1987 to provide residents with the highest standard of care. Regardless of federal law, residents have basic human rights and deserve to be safe from verbal, mental, physical, and sexual abuse, especially from those who have been entrusted with their care.

If you are suspicious that a loved one is not receiving the care that they deserve, or that they are being taken advantage of, we would love to assist you with the complexities of suing a nursing home. Let us handle the paperwork and headaches for you, so that you can get back to the important role of caring for your loved one.

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