Nursing home abuse is a widespread problem across the United States. To bring the number of nursing home abuse and neglect incidents down to zero, it is up to everyone to do their part. The family and friends of elders in nursing homes have an especially important role to look for the signs of nursing home abuse and prevent it from happening again or worsening.
Why Many Elders Don’t Report Nursing Home Abuse
It's a distressing reality that many elderly individuals who experience nursing home abuse do not report it, even when they are aware of the mistreatment. This hidden epidemic underscores the vital role that family and friends play in identifying and reporting such incidents on behalf of their loved ones. The reasons why elders may not report abuse vary but often stem from fear, health issues, or feelings of helplessness.
Four common reasons why elders in nursing homes don’t report abuse or neglect are:
- Afraid to speak up: Elders may fear retaliation from the abuser if they speak out, especially if the abuser is a caregiver upon whom they rely for daily needs. They may also worry about not being believed or causing trouble for their family.
- Memory issues: People living with cognitive impairments like dementia or Alzheimer's may not remember instances of abuse or might confuse them with other events.
- Unable to communicate: Health conditions, including stroke or advanced stages of illnesses, can impact an elder's ability to communicate effectively. They may be physically unable to share what's happening to them or struggle to find the right words to describe their situation.
- Perception of helplessness: Some elderly individuals may feel that there's no way to improve their situation or that reporting the abuse won't bring about any change. In some cases, they might even blame themselves for the abuse, further deterring them from seeking help.
Why Family & Friends Should Pay Attention to Warning Signs
The warning signs of nursing home abuse can be clear or subtle. This duality underscores the importance of family and friends being attentive and proactive in their interactions with their elderly loved ones who live in nursing homes. Frequent visits, regular phone conversations, and close observation of any changes in the elder's physical condition or behavior are paramount in identifying potential issues.
It is crucial to remember that you might be the only person who notices these signs of trouble. In such cases, taking action becomes not just a choice but a responsibility. It is all too easy to assume that someone else will notice and step in, but relying on others to act could leave your loved one at risk. Speaking up and taking steps to address potential abuse could be the lifeline an elder needs in a difficult situation
What Can Family & Friends Do to Report Nursing Home Abuse?
If you suspect that a loved one is being abused in a nursing home, it's crucial to take immediate action. Reporting abuse can help protect your loved one and potentially others in the facility from further harm. It is important to remember, however, that each situation is unique and should be approached with care. The safety of your loved one should always be the primary concern. If you think your elderly loved one could be at risk of imminent physical abuse, you should call the authorities first.
Some steps you can take to report nursing home abuse are:
- Document the evidence: Keep a record of all instances of potential abuse. This could include taking photographs of injuries, noting dates and times of incidents, and writing down conversations or interactions that seemed inappropriate or caused distress.
- Consult with an Attorney: Before you take more steps to report the abuse, you should consult with an attorney who focuses on nursing home abuse claims. They can provide advice on the best course of action and assist with any of the below steps, as well as with legal proceedings, of course.
- Speak with management: Report your concerns to the management of the nursing home. They have a responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of their residents. Be mindful when bringing a complaint to management if you have reason to suspect that a member of management is an abuser.
- Contact Adult Protective Services: Every state has an Adult Protective Services agency or similar body that investigates reports of elder abuse. They can provide guidance and assistance about what to do next.
- File a complaint with the state licensing board: If the nursing home is not addressing the issue adequately, you can file a complaint with the state licensing board that oversees nursing homes.
Consult with a Nursing Home Abuse Attorney
Consulting with a nursing home abuse attorney is crucial if you suspect your elderly loved one is a victim of abuse or neglect. These legal professionals offer invaluable assistance in navigating the complex legal landscape surrounding elder abuse. They possess the knowledge and experience to guide you through the process, ensuring that all necessary steps are taken and deadlines are met.
An attorney can help gather and preserve essential evidence, engage with the management of the nursing home on your behalf, and work with local law enforcement or adult protective services as needed. They can also help you file a lawsuit against the nursing home, if it comes to that, seeking compensation for any harm suffered by your loved one. Ultimately, an attorney serves as an advocate for your loved one's rights, working tirelessly to fight for the justice and care they deserve.
Harvey & Foote Law Firm stands ready to help if you are concerned that your elderly loved one elder in a New Mexico nursing home has been abused or neglected. Our legal professionals focus on neglect and abuse within nursing homes across the state and how to bring it to a stop with claims and lawsuits. With our wealth of experience and ample resources, we are well-equipped to take matters to court if it proves necessary. We never slow in the pursuit of justice and rightful compensation.