Abuse and Neglect in Long-Term Care Facilities: What You Need to Know
More than 8 million people in the U.S. receive support from long-term care services: nursing homes, home health agencies, residential care communities, and adult day care services. This number will only continue to grow as our population ages. When a loved one is in long-term care, we worry whether they are safe and will get the care they need. Long-term care abuse and neglect is a real concern for these seniors and their families. What can we do to keep our loved ones safe?
One of the most important things is to research the organization or facility which may provide the care. There are two websites that can give you a lot of information to get started evaluating nursing homes. Medicare has a website to compare Nursing Homes, which is a great resource to help understand the questions to ask, and how a nursing home stacks up against its competitors. It includes information on health and safety inspections and gives star ratings for each facility. Pennsylvania’s Department of Health has a website at Health.pa.gov/Nursing Home Locator, where you can locate facilities in your area, and review surveys and discussions of deficiencies and corrections at these facilities.
Visiting the nursing home or other facility, and talking to the staff, will also give you a feel for the structure, programs, and staffing. You should make sure to ask all of the questions you have and get full answers to them. You may want to visit the facility, talk to therapy or other departments who would be involved in your loved one’s care, or even speak to other families who have had loved ones with the same facility.
Once your loved one is in a facility or under its care, it is important to visit as often as you can. Many families plan their visits on different days of the week and at different times, to make sure they observe as much as possible. When you are there, you should not be shy about asking for care and assistance for your loved one or asking questions about their condition.
Here are some potential signs of nursing home or long-term care abuse and neglect:
- Cuts and bruising
- Bed sores
- Broken bones
- Unexplained weight loss
- Change in mental status
- Medication errors
- Refusal to speak, eat or take medications
- Changes in mental status
The key is to follow your gut and common sense. If something does not seem right, speak up, ask about it and make sure you get a response with which you are comfortable.
If you have concerns about a loved one’s care or condition that are not addressed by the facility to your satisfaction, you can ask to speak to a charge nurse, supervisor, director of nursing, facility administrator or attending doctor.
You also can report suspected abuse or neglect to the state, by calling the Statewide Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-490-8505 or contacting the local Area Agency on Aging (which has a locator at Aging.pa.gov).
For decades, our law firm has successfully sued and recovered significant awards against long-term care providers and nursing homes. Those cases include:
- An elderly woman who was dropped from a Hoyer lift, causing multiple fractures and death, while living in a nursing home.
- A dementia patient in a long-term care facility who choked to death as a result of improper supervision while eating.
- A patient admitted to a facility for short-term rehabilitation following a spinal injury who developed massive bedsores which required numerous surgeries.
- An assisted living facility resident who was left unassisted and without her walker, causing her to fall and fracture her hip, leading to her death.
- A home health agency’s patient who was allowed to develop significant bedsores in her home, requiring numerous surgeries and residence in a nursing home.
Millions of older Americans fall victim to some form of abuse or neglect every year, and many more cases go unreported. If you think you or someone you love has been injured as a result of long-term or nursing home abuse or neglect, call us at (610) 625-2100 for your free consultation.