Our elderly loved ones may require more care and services than family or friends can provide. Under these circumstances, it can be necessary to place them in facilities that are equipped to handle the needs of people who may be very sick, immobile, unable to communicate or suffering from dementia.
Unfortunately, despite promises of excellent care and trained staff, there are facilities where these vulnerable patients are neglected and abused. And according to recent studies from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), these tragic situations go unreported far too often.
What is the problem?
The research notes that nursing home facilities are failing to report severe cases of abuse or neglect. These incidents are supposed to be reported to police within two to 24 hours, depending on the presence of bodily injury. However, almost one in five severe incidents involving trips to the emergency room were not reported.
The HHS also found that nursing home inspectors are failing in their duty to refer cases of abuse to local law enforcement, as required by law. Their data shows that a whopping 97% of such cases were never reported by inspectors.
Why is this happening?
There are several reasons why facilities and inspectors might fail to report abuse, and none of them is acceptable:
- Some may do it in an effort to conceal a history of misconduct.
- Others may not report instances to police to shield someone from facing criminal charges.
- There were also facilities and inspectors in this study who cited confusion about when they were supposed to report cases of abuse or neglect.
Whatever the reason may be, failing to report serious abuse to the authorities is a very real problem. In fact, failing to report abuse suspicions to local law enforcement is a violation of federal law.
What to do if you suspect your loved one is a victim of abuse
It may often fall to the family of a nursing home abuse victim to address misconduct. Victims are often scared, and they may not be willing or capable of reporting abuse or neglect. As this report demonstrates, we cannot necessarily count on workers at a facility to report abuse or neglect.
If you suspect neglect or abuse in a nursing home, it is critical that you report it. If your loved one suffered as a result of this mistreatment, speaking with an attorney on their behalf can be a valuable first step. They may have options for restitution available to them under the law.