Nursing Home Complaints: How to Report Abuse or Neglect
The decision to move a loved one into a nursing home is always difficult. On the one hand, you're comforted by the presence of staff available to provide necessary care and supervision. However, on the other hand, you wonder just how well those staff members have been trained and how well they're supervised. These are valid concerns especially in light of some reports indicating that nearly one in three nursing homes have been associated with reports of abuse.
Victims of abuse, who are already in a vulnerable position, are often unable to protect themselves and rely on loved ones or others to intervene. In some cases, this requires filing a nursing home complaint. Below is a general overview of how to report abuse or neglect in nursing homes.
First Things First -- Gather the Facts
When you report an incident of nursing home abuse or neglect, it's important to provide basic information to help guide investigators and allow them to determine if immediate action is needed. Complaints regarding the types of leisure activities provided to residents, while they may be important, probably don't require immediate intervention as would those involving physical abuse or financial exploitation. Providing enough information to investigators helps them determine, for example, whether a resident needs immediate hospital care or help in blocking access to bank accounts.
That being said, when collecting information for a nursing home complaint, it's important to document:
- The statements of the victim (if possible) and those of any witnesses (staff or other residents);
- Locations and a timeline of events;
- Any injuries with descriptions and pictures (if possible);
- The victim's finances (if you're in a position to do so);
- Statements of nursing home supervisors regarding the incident;
- Statements of the victim's medical providers (at the nursing home or off-site).
Emails or letters from staff or medical providers are a good way to document their statements in their own words. If they speak with you in person, you can always send an email after the conversation confirming what they told you and allowing them to correct the record as needed.
Remember, your initial complaint could serve as the basis for criminal prosecution down the road or even a civil case to recover damages for the victim, so the more accurate information you can document early on, the better.
Where do you File a Nursing Home Complaint?
Regardless of where you live, you can always report nursing home abuse or neglect to your local law enforcement agencies, with 911 available for situations requiring immediate attention. However, each state and territory also has an Adult Protective Services (APS) agency, many of which have 24-hour hotlines to report abuse. Contacting APS will trigger an investigation and possible referral to law enforcement where criminal activity is suspected.
State attorney general offices are also able to investigate nursing home complaints and bring criminal or civil actions as warranted. The California Attorney General's Office, for example, has a separate bureau dedicated to addressing complaints of elder abuse. Going through your state attorney general can also lead to increased state oversight of a nursing home as well as suspension or revocation of its license to operate.
In addition, each state has a Long Term Care Ombudsman Program which provides nursing home residents with advocates to resolve their complaints and improve their quality of care and life, usually free of charge. Ombudsmen are able to:
- Listen to the concerns of residents or family members;
- Inform residents of their rights and legal protections;
- Provide information on different nursing homes;
- Work with nursing home staff and management to make changes; and
- Involve law enforcement if required.
Once you've provided a nursing home complaint to authorities, it's important to provide all of the information you have regarding any specific incidents, even information that you learn after filing the complaint, as this will ensure that a resident receives the protection that he or she needs.
Nursing Home Complaints: Related Resources
Get Help With Your Nursing Home Complaint Today
If you have concerns about nursing home conditions, time may be of the essence especially when the victims are in a fragile state. There are a variety of resources available, but perhaps the most effective way to stop the abuse is by enlisting the help of an attorney. There are attorneys that specialize in nursing home abuse near you who can help with interpreting warning signs and taking action to protect a resident's rights.