When You’re Having Trouble with a Facility or Suspect Abuse

When it comes to the elderly, there are no insignificant injuries.  Because elder abuse can significantly impact the health of your loved one, it is crucial to act quickly and effectively when you suspect abuse or neglect of a senior citizen. 

One of the primary objectives of InjuryBoard is to provide information that may help prevent negative outcomes such as elder abuse and neglect.  However, if an abusive situation arises, you should be prepared to take the steps necessary to reduce the impact of the injury your loved one has already suffered, and prevent future harm. 

Act Immediately on Suspicious Activity

If you suspect a problem regarding the facility or the facility’s quality of care, there is a good chance that your intuition is correct.  If something about the facility makes you feel uneasy, be sure to ask questions or investigate the situation immediately.  Although you may feel uncomfortable asking difficult questions because of a “feeling” and without any “proof”, it is always better to ask.  The potential consequences of elder abuse and neglect far outweigh the effects of an unnecessary investigation and uncomfortable questions. 

When a potentially abusive situation exists, it is preferable to involve your treating physician. The treating physician should be aware of the patient’s situation because every nursing home resident must first obtain a treating physician’s order before entering the nursing home.  Thus, it can be beneficial to make the treating physician accountable by reporting suspicious activity to him or her.  All too often, people rely solely on nurses to speak to doctors about health care issues.  However, you’re more likely to get better results by stating your concerns directly to the treating physician who can more readily take action on your behalf. 

For more detailed information on this subject, please refer to our article entitled When You’re Having Trouble with a Facility or Suspect Abuse.

  • CLICK HERE - for the Administration on Aging’s National Center for Elder Abuse

KEY STRATEGY – When reporting suspected elder abuse or neglect, be sure to involve your treating physician, a professional who knows of your loved one's circumstances and can take direct action on their behalf.

Evaluate the Severity of the Problem and Act Accordingly

Common sense tells you that not all accidents and injuries are equal.  For example, if your loved one casually complains to you that he or she is unhappy with a staff member, it may be unnecessary to contact authorities.  On the other hand, if you notice a large bed sore, you should certainly take action on behalf of your loved one. 

One key factor to consider is whether the abuse or neglect seems to be an isolated incident or if it’s part of a trend. A staff member’s single inappropriate comment to a resident may not pose a significant threat to your loved one if the facility administration is aware of and properly disciplines the staff member for the infraction.  However, if your loved one suffers from multiple bed sores that alone indicates a serious problem that should be reported. 

Taking Further Action

If you’ve evaluated your particular situation and determined that the circumstances warrant taking action, then you should notify the proper authorities.  This may range from reporting a simple incident to the facility’s administration, to reporting a facility to a state agency, all the way to calling 9-1-1 (emergency assistance) or your local police for immediate help if it’s clear that there has been serious abuse and/or a possible crime. 

If the situation is not immediately life-threatening and does not require law enforcement, you may consult the Administration on Aging’s National Center on Elder Abuse.  This source provides the correct contact information, website links, and phone numbers for reporting elder abuse and neglect in each U.S. state. 

If your complaint relates to a loved one who lives in a different state, it is proper to call the protective services agency in the state in which the senior citizen lives.  Some states allow you to call their hotline toll-free, and many states have posted their local reporting numbers on online directories. 

The Eldercare Locator is also an outstanding source for taking action to combat elder abuse.  The Eldercare Locator is a public service provided by the U.S. Administration on Aging.  It is designed to help people find resources for older adults in any U.S. community. 

You can reach Eldercare directly by dialing 1-800-677-1116 (weekdays 9AM – 8PM ET) 

When you call, you can connect with an a personal Eldercare Locator information specialist who can guide you through the process of reporting abuse and point you to sources that will help you and your family. 

  • CLICK HERE - for more information about the Eldercare Locator

Get an Attorney Involved

If a situation becomes serious or complex, it can be useful to consult an expert.  When a case of abuse is serious enough to warrant reporting, it is best to place control in the hands of a legal expert who specializes in Elder Law or in Nursing Home and Elder Abuse. 

For more information, you can read more in our article on Legal Issues and Nursing Home Abuse 

When to Move Your Loved One to a Different Facility

Making the decision to move a senior citizen to a different facility can be a difficult one.  You must weigh the benefit of ending a potentially abusive relationship against the hassle and hardship of transferring your loved one to a different nursing home or ALF. 

There are obvious difficulties when deciding whether to remove a loved one from a facility.  The move will undoubtedly be time-consuming and cost money.  You may have to cut through red tape, especially if insurance or Medicare/Medicaid is involved.  You may end up having to move that loved one to a facility further away which means greater commitments or fewer visits.  Depending on your location, there may not even be another facility in your area and you may have to move your loved one a considerable distance from you and your family. 

There are other considerations as well – does the next facility offer the same kind of specialized care as this facility?  Will moving this patient be particularly hard on them because of their medical condition or due to loss of friends? 

If the infraction is an isolated incident, you may consider maintaining the status quo and keeping your loved one where they’re currently located. 

But if any level of serious threat or an injury has occurred, you may have no choice but to move your loved one to a different facility.  Remember a patient’s health and safety is more important than any possible difficulty you might face. 

Finally, if you plan to take legal action, it is advisable to move your relative to a different facility as soon as possible.  If you keep the senior citizen in the same facility you accuse of mistreating your loved one, you may lose credibility in a law suit.  The defense will likely interpret your refusal to find alternative placement as acceptance of their treatment of your loved one. 

KEY STRATEGY – If you believe your loved one has truly been a victim of abuse, move them to a new facility immediately -- no matter what the cost.

Read the next article:  Legal Issues and Nursing Home Abuse 

Contact an attorney in your area.