What to Do When You Witness Nursing Home Abuse

Old Age Nursing
Old Age Nursing

Families often put an elderly loved one into a nursing home when they feel they can no longer provide the highest level of care at home. However, nursing home abuse remains a problem in this country, leaving many individuals wondering what they should do if they suspect or witness the abuse of this type. This is true whether the abuse is physical, emotional, financial, sexual or of another type completely.

Fortunately, there are laws in place that protect patients in a nursing home. Following are the steps to take when abuse of any type in a long-term care home is observed.

Attempt to Verify the Abuse

Although it can be difficult to determine the veracity of the loved one’s story, the person witnessing the abuse must do so unless he or she observed it directly. Take pictures of any injuries that cannot be explained, gather medical records, and speak to other nursing home residents who are coherent and able to discuss care within the facility and possibly the abuse itself. If it becomes difficult to do so, as the staff or other family members are interfering, it may be time to seek the assistance of an attorney in collecting the necessary information.

Look Into Other Facilities

Try to find another facility in the area that can take the loved one. He or she should not be left in an abusive situation a moment longer than is absolutely necessary. For some, this can be very difficult due to limited options in the area. Whenever possible, however, the person should be moved promptly. In the event the abuse is severe enough, the senior may need to be treated in the hospital and this can provide the family with time to find a new placement for him or her.

Contact Law Enforcement

Thanks to both federal and state laws that have been enacted, nursing home abuse is not allowed under current law. For this reason, law enforcement should be contacted immediately at any time a person has witnessed or suspects this type of abuse. The officers conduct a thorough investigation to see if a crime has been committed and who is responsible if one has. If the accusations are shown to be true, criminal charges may then be filed against the responsible parties.

File a Complaint

Follow up by filing a complaint with the appropriate agency. In some states, this will be adult or elder protective services and it others it will be the local social services agency. With this information, the agency launches an investigation into the nursing home to determine if there is a pattern of abuse and other patients have been treated in a similar manner. Don’t assume contacting law enforcement is enough. One can never be too careful when it comes to the elderly and their treatment at the hands of those who are tasked with caring for them.

Seniors deserve to live out their final years in a comfortable setting. Sadly, individuals exposed to abuse in a nursing home don’t have this luxury. As more people become aware of the signs and symptoms of nursing home abuse, this problem will decrease. However, everyone must do their part, which is why reporting any suspected or observed abuse is imperative. Take these steps today to ensure your loved one is treated with compassion, respect, and dignity at all times.

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