With the older population in the United States growing by leaps and bounds, most of us know someone in nursing home care or will know someone in the near future. Although many nursing homes provide loving, compassionate, and competent care to the residents of the facility, the sad reality is that abuse does occur far more frequently than most people realize. Because most people have never had to deal with suspected abuse, the nursing home lawyers at the Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia explain what you should do if you suspect a loved one is the victim of nursing home abuse.
How Bad Is the Nursing Home Abuse Problem in the U.S.?
As the Baby Boomer generation moves into their retirement years, the “older” population in the U.S. is growing on a daily basis. Consequently, the need for caretakers has also grown at an astounding rate. Most people who care for the elderly do so with kindness and patience; however, there are those who prey on society’s most vulnerable, including those in nursing home care. Consider the following facts and figures relating to nursing home abuse:
- Between 1999 and 2001, almost one-third of all nursing home facilities were cited for violations of federal standards that could cause harm, or that did harm elderly residents of those facilities;
- Nearly 10% of those homes had violations that posed a risk of serious injury or death, or that did cause deaths of elderly residents;
- More than 40% of nursing home residents have reported abuse, and more than 90% report that they or another resident of the facility have been neglected;
- Research from 2010 indicates that up to half of all nursing home attendants have admitted abusing or neglecting elderly patients;
- More than half of all Certified Nursing Assistants (CAN’s) in elder care facilities have admitted verbally abusing, yelling at, and using foul language with elderly residents of care facilities.
- According to Long-Term Care Ombudsman programs in 2003, there were more than 20 thousand complaints of exploitation, neglect and abuse coming from nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The most common type of abuse reported was physical abuse.
- The most recent studies indicate that 7-10 percent of the elderly suffered from at least one episode of abuse within the past year. Ten percent were cases unrelated to financial exploitation.
What Should You Do If You Suspect Abuse?
If you have a parent, grandparent, or other loved one who is in a nursing home and you suspect that he or she is the victim of abuse, there are several steps you should take immediately, including:
- Take to your loved one if possible. When possible, it is always good to confirm your suspicions. Unfortunately, victims of elder abuse, in general, are often embarrassed or ashamed to be a victim, making them reluctant to admit the abuse to anyone. If your loved one suffers from dementia, it will be even more difficult to discuss your suspicions.
- Ask for a meeting with the facility administrator. Sometimes this is extremely helpful; however, in other instances, administrators “circle the wagons” and worry more about the facility’s exposure to legal liability than they do about the harm done to a resident.
- File a formal complaint. The New York State Division of Quality and Surveillance for Nursing Homes and Intermediate Care Facilities (DQS) is responsible for investigating complaints and incidents against nursing homes in New York State. Complaints and incidents may be submitted by fax (518-408-1157) or by mail to: Centralized Complaint Intake Unit, 161 Delaware Avenue, Delmar, New York 12054. You can also call the NYS Department of Health’s Nursing Home Complaint Hotline at 1-888-201-4563, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Contact local law enforcement. Elder abuse is a crime and should be reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency. Whether the subsequent investigation results in an arrest and conviction or not, the local authorities need to know about the abuse.
- Consult with a nursing home abuse attorney. Elder abuse can also be the basis for a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator and/or the facility. In addition, if your loved one is reluctant to speak out, or is suffering from dementia, you may need to petition for guardianship in order to move your loved one to a new facility.