Knowing how to investigate nursing home abuse can help protect your elderly loved one’s right to live in a safe, secure environment. It can also help them recover damages for the abuse suffered. Start your investigation by examining your loved one and documenting any signs of abuse, and notify the police in case of an emergency. Next, compile evidence and take your loved one to a safe place if necessary.
Report the abuse to the relevant authorities to help protect your relative from further abuse and hold the nursing home liable for the harm suffered. Consider hiring a nursing home abuse attorney to help with the investigation and compiling the necessary evidence to recover compensation from the negligent facility.
What Is Nursing Home Abuse?
Nursing home abuse happens when caretakers inflict physical, emotional, and mental injuries on residents of nursing homes and other assisted living facilities. It covers both planned and unplanned harm. The outcome of nursing home abuse includes trauma, health complications, long-term disabilities, and even fatalities. Elder abuse usually occurs because of staff shortfall, improper or inadequate training, and overworked staff members.
Both state and federal laws recognize the rights of elderly persons in long-term care facilities. These laws protect residents from verbal, psychological, physical, and sexual abuse. They also protect them from unnecessary restraints.
How to Investigate Nursing Home Abuse
There are several key steps to starting an effective nursing home abuse investigation.
Examine Your Elderly Loved One for Nursing Home Abuse Signs
More than 2 million U.S. citizens aged 65 years and above get abused by their caregivers annually. It’s your duty to protect your loved one from abuse in a nursing home. Elderly residents suffering abuse in a nursing facility are often too fragile or scared to defend themselves or report their abusers.
Residents are often embarrassed about their situation and may be unwilling to discuss what they are experiencing with anyone. Some nursing home abuse signs are subtle and can easily go undetected. For these reasons, it is wise to familiarize yourself with the signs that your loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse.
- Fresh Bruises or Wounds: Bruises and wounds can stem from slip-and-fall accidents and other incidents within a nursing home. They can also arise from physical abuse by the nursing home staff, visitors, or other residents. Conduct further investigations if you notice suspicious bruises, cuts, and other injuries on your elderly relative.
- Bedsores: A bedsore is a wound that develops when too much pressure is exerted on the skin. Excessive pressure keeps the affected areas from getting enough blood, killing the skin cells.
Bedsores indicate that your loved one may be getting little or no assistance with repositioning in the bed and movement during the day. Worsening bedsores often mean the facility’s staff may not be treating the sores properly.
- Unexplained Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs): Your loved one may be getting sexually abused if he or she is constantly diagnosed with STIs, including chlamydia and gonorrhea.
- Unexplained Weight Loss: Unpremeditated weight loss is a sign of neglect or abuse in the facility.
- Unusual Financial Transactions or Will Update: Strange financial transactions often indicate that your loved one is experiencing financial abuse in the facility. Another financial abuse sign is revising the will to name a stranger as the sole beneficiary.
- Sudden Behavioral Changes: Nursing home abuse can trigger sudden changes in behavior, including becoming overly emotional, too aggressive, and withdrawing from social interactions. These signs indicate your loved one could be experiencing verbal, physical, or sexual abuse inside the nursing home.
Call the Police in an Emergency
Call 911 immediately if you think the situation you are dealing with is an emergency. Calling 911 is the easiest and fastest way to help your loved one obtain prompt treatment or care.
It also allows the police to witness the alleged nursing home abuse situation. The police can then commence investigations into the matter and compile a police report. The report will provide an unbiased assessment of the incident and information you can use to support your nursing home abuse claim.
Collecting enough evidence can help show that your loved one got abused in the nursing home. You can then use the evidence to strengthen your claim against the facility and help your relative receive compensation for the injuries suffered and losses incurred. The following are steps for collecting proof of nursing home abuse:
Document the Injury
Describe any injury you see on your loved one. Record the size, shape, color, location, and number of injuries. Note the diagnostic tests performed and treatment provided. Also, describe the condition of your relative before the suspected abuse incident.
Take Detailed Pictures of the Injury
Take as many pictures of the resident’s injury as possible. Ensure the pictures provide an up-close view of the injury and do not contain identifying features, such as the resident’s face. Ensure the pictures have the date and time stamps. You can do that by enabling that setting on your smartphone’s settings before taking the pictures.
Obtain Written, Signed Statements from Witnesses
Interview and obtain a written and signed statement from anyone who might have seen or has information regarding the abuse incident. Potential witnesses include visitors, other residents, and staff in charge of the resident when the alleged incident occurred. They also include staff members on earlier shifts that might have information that could help your investigation.
Interview and obtain a written statement from your loved one, if possible. Statements obtained from witnesses should be precise and clear. They should include the witness’ name and contact information.
Document Any Immediate Steps Taken
The immediate steps taken will depend on the type of abuse. An alleged sexual abuse requires immediate medical examination for treatment and forensic evidence collection. It requires reporting the incident to the nursing home administrator and police officers. Removing the alleged perpetrator from the facility is also necessary.
Record all the immediate steps taken by the nursing home or its staff. This information will help you and your lawyer determine whether the facility took reasonable steps to protect your loved one from further abuse and hold the perpetrator accountable.
Take Your Loved to a New, Safe, and Secure Environment
Put your loved one in a new, reasonably safe nursing home if the evidence collected and compiled confirms your suspicion. Take this action, especially if the facility fails to protect your elderly family member from further abuse and retaliation during the investigation.
Notify Relevant Authorities of the Alleged Abuse Incident
Contact relevant state agencies if your investigation shows your elderly relative might be a victim of nursing home abuse. You can report nursing home abuse in Illinois by submitting a complaint to your local Ombudsman program. You can also report the alleged abuse to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).
Who Handles Nursing Home Abuse Claims?
The parties and entities responsible for handling nursing home abuse depend on your state nursing home laws. In Illinois, for instance, the following parties and entities handle nursing home abuse claims:
Nursing Home Administrator
The law requires the facility administrator to conduct a thorough investigation immediately after receiving claims of exploitation, neglect, or abuse in their facilities. The administrator must take appropriate corrective measures if the investigation findings corroborate the abuse claim.
An ombudsman is a public official who investigates and resolves complaints against long-term care facilities like nursing homes. An ombudsman advocates for residents’ health, safety, well-being, and rights. You can get the contact information of your local ombudsman by visiting the Illinois Department on Aging (IDOA) website.
Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH)
IDPH is another government agency that looks into claims of actual or potential abuse to residents of long-term care facilities. You can file a complaint with this agency by calling its hotline. Filing the complaint electronically is, however, the quickest option because of the many calls the agency receives.
IDPH never reveals the complainant’s identity to the nursing home. It also allows complainants to file anonymously. Those who want to know the outcome of the complaint investigation can provide their contact information.
Illinois State Police Medicaid Fraud Control Unit
The Unit investigates claims of medical fraud, exploitation, neglect, and abuse in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, home health agencies, and other long-term care facilities. Medicaid fraud involves obtaining money from the Medicaid system through deceitful tactics, such as billing Medicaid for services not rendered.
Nursing Home Abuse Attorney
You might be entitled to compensation if you or a loved one has suffered neglect, exploitation, or abuse in a nursing facility. It is best to hire a nursing home abuse attorney to maximize your chances of receiving compensation for medical bills and other losses suffered. The attorney can help with investigations, evidence collection, settlement negotiations, and legal representation in the courtroom if necessary.