How to Report Nursing Home Abuse

How to Report Nursing Home Abuse

Unfortunately, many elderly people in nursing homes are abused or neglected. Elderly adults who are physically frail may be unable to resist bullying or abuse, and those suffering from dementia may be unable to remember or process abuse or the fact that caregivers are abusive. If you suspect that an elderly loved one is being abused in a nursing home, you have several options for reporting nursing home abuse. You can combine all of these methods to cover all of your bases, or you can start with the facility and work your way up, keeping in mind that filing a lawsuit is time-consuming and should only be used as a last resort. If you believe the person is in immediate and serious danger, call 911 immediately.

Method 1 Using the Facility’s Grievance Procedure

1. Make contact with the nursing home. Unless notified, the facility may be unaware of abusive behaviour on the part of employees or other residents.

If the facility accepts Medicare or Medicaid, federal regulations require it to have a grievance procedure.

The information you or the patient received when he or she moved into the facility should include information about the facility’s grievance procedure.

You should also inform the person’s doctor, especially if the doctor is not affiliated with the nursing home. The doctor can assist you in identifying signs of abuse and supporting your claims.

2. Submit your complaint in writing. Although many facilities allow you to make a complaint over the phone, submitting your statement in writing ensures that your complaint is documented.

If you call and file a verbal grievance, you should still write down the details and send them to the nursing home.

Stick to the facts and provide as much detail as possible. Where possible, provide dates and approximate times.

If you know the names of nursing home employees who are caring for the person, or if you suspect someone in particular, include that information in your grievance.

Pay special attention to any evidence of abuse you have, such as changes in the person’s behaviour and bruises or other injuries that aren’t explained by accidents or medical conditions.

Make a copy of your grievance before filing it so you have a record of it.

3. Speak with a representative from a nursing home. Following the filing of your grievance, you may be contacted by a nursing home representative for additional information about the abusive behaviour.

Typically, a representative will speak with both you and the adult patient you claim is being abused. You may also receive written notice of the grievance process.

Be polite and open with the representative, and avoid getting angry – it won’t help you. Maintain a professional demeanour and refrain from insulting or lashing out at anyone.

Make it clear that you want the situation to be resolved in some way. Even if the facility finds no evidence of abuse, you must still determine what caused the injuries or suspicious behaviour you witnessed.

4. Receive the investigation’s findings. In most cases, the nursing home will investigate your complaint and provide you with a written report detailing the facility’s findings and actions taken.

Expect to learn the outcome of the investigation within 30 days of submitting your grievance. If you haven’t heard anything by then, you should contact the nursing home again about the situation.

If you are dissatisfied with the nursing home’s resolution of the matter or if problems continue to occur, your notice of the investigation’s findings should include instructions on how to proceed.

Method 2 Reporting Abuse to a State Agency

1. Find the appropriate Adult Protective Services (APS) agency. Each state has an agency that investigates and responds to elder abuse complaints.

The scope and power of APS agencies vary greatly from state to state, so once you’ve found the agency, you might want to call and find out what the process is and what the agency can do.

Because nursing homes must be licenced, your state’s licencing board may have a grievance procedure you can use.

If the facility accepts Medicare or Medicaid, federal law requires it to post the names, addresses, and phone numbers of state licencing and elder care organisations. Search online for “nursing home licencing board” and the name of your state to find your state’s board and its requirements.

2. Submit your report. To report elder abuse, the agency will usually have a form that you can fill out. You may be able to download the form from the agency’s website, or you may be required to obtain a paper copy from the agency’s local office.

Although hard evidence is not required, you should provide as many details as possible and include specific incidents that led you to suspect nursing home abuse.

The name and location of the nursing home, as well as the name and information about the person you suspect is being abused, are typically required in the report.

Include any relevant medical information about the person, especially if he or she suffers from dementia, confusion, or memory loss.

3. Consult with the caseworker. When we receive your report, we will assign it to a caseworker who will investigate the facility.

Your report will be screened to determine the severity of the threat, so meeting with a caseworker may take some time depending on the priority assigned to your case.

If anything happens in the meantime, or if you learn more about the abuse, contact APS to learn how you can update your report.

When you meet with your caseworker, he or she will explain the agency’s procedure and how your report will be investigated. You will also be given a general outline of the case plan, as well as an estimate of when you can expect to hear back.

4. Participate in the investigation. You may be required to provide additional information or assist the caseworker in investigating the allegations of abuse.

The APS caseworker will typically conduct an initial investigation, as well as follow-ups or unannounced visits.

Keep in mind that the caseworker cannot proceed without the nursing home patient’s permission, so make sure you are communicating with him or her throughout the process and that he or she is willing to allow the investigation to continue.

Following the initial investigation and report, the agency may continue to monitor the situation as needed to ensure that the abuse has stopped and the nursing home is in compliance with any orders.

Method 3 Filing a Lawsuit

1. Collect information. You will need information about the person being abused as well as the facility where he or she is staying, as well as specifics about the abuse you believe he or she is experiencing.

The type of lawsuit you file will be determined in part by the evidence you have. Nursing home abuse may result in a personal injury lawsuit against the nursing home in which you claim the nursing home was negligent in hiring the abusive person or allowing the abuse to continue.

If the person’s medication or medical treatment is harmed as a result of the abuse, you may be able to file a medical malpractice claim.

Nursing homes that accept Medicare and Medicaid must adhere to federal guidelines. These regulations establish the standard of care that nursing home employees must adhere to.

Nursing home abuse may also be considered a breach of contract because the patient typically has a contract with the nursing home. Collect any documents or information that the patient received when he or she was transferred to the nursing home.

2. Speak with a lawyer. An experienced elder law attorney will be able to best assist you in protecting the rights of the abused individual.

An experienced attorney will be familiar with any state or federal laws that may apply to your situation, as well as other available options.

Many elder law attorneys will take cases on contingency, which means you won’t have to pay the attorney up front.

You may also be able to obtain free or low-cost legal services from your local legal aid clinic or a nonprofit organisation dedicated to assisting the elderly.

3. Submit your complaint. To begin your lawsuit, you must typically file a complaint in the civil court of the county where the nursing home is located.

Keep in mind that the statute of limitations for personal injury is typically the same, and it can be very short – often only one or two years. You can no longer file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired.

Even if you have multiple claims or theories, you can usually file a single lawsuit. For example, if you have both a breach of contract claim and a personal injury claim, you can file both in the same lawsuit.

The lawsuit must also be served on the nursing home so that it is aware that it is being sued. Following service, the nursing home has a limited time, typically 20 to 30 days, to file an answer to your lawsuit.

4. Gather evidence. Collect documents and other information to support the allegations you make in your complaint with the help of your attorney.

Photographs of the patient before, during, and after he or she was admitted to the nursing home may be used as evidence.

You should also gather any medical records, especially those mentioning unexplained physical injuries or other evidence of abuse.

Request medical records from other medical providers so that you can compile a complete list of all the person’s doctors, medications, and treatments dating back at least five years.

5. Participate in the discovery process. After the nursing home responds to your complaint, you will be able to request records and information from the nursing home, as well as interview nursing home employees and other witnesses about the abusive behaviour.

Keep in mind that gathering evidence may be difficult, and information from the nursing home may be insufficient.

Depositions could be one of your most powerful discovery tools. You (or your attorney) interview someone under oath during a deposition. A court reporter records the questions and answers and provides both parties with a written transcript of the interview.

As part of your lawsuit, you may conduct interviews with nursing home employees, including those you believe are engaging in abusive behaviour or are aware of abuse but have done nothing to correct or prevent it.

Following discovery, your case will be scheduled for trial or mediation. Mediation entails a neutral third party collaborating with you and the nursing home to reach a mutually acceptable settlement of the claim.

Creative Commons License