Many elderly Americans benefit from the care they receive in nursing homes and other types of assisted-living centers. But two recent government reports indicate that elder neglect and abuse is rampant nationwide, and that the underreporting of suspected abuse and a lack of oversight remain obstacles to preventing neglect and abuse.
In this post, the Madison, Wisconsin, nursing home abuse lawyers at Boller & Vaughan take a closer look at new data and discuss how you can protect your elderly loved ones.
Nursing Home Report Finds ‘Persistent Records of Poor Care’
In June, the bipartisan Senate report “Families’ and Residents’ Right to Know: Uncovering Poor Care in America’s Nursing Homes” identified nearly 400 facilities across the United States that have “persistent records of poor care.” Eleven of the care centers listed are in Wisconsin.
The report focuses primarily on instances of neglect and abuse that occur in facilities associated with the Special Focus Facility (SFF) program, which was created to increase oversight of care centers that consistently underperform in required state inspections in the areas of care standards and resident protections.
Examples of nursing home neglect and abuse identified in the report include:
- Failure to secure windows, which allowed residents to escape or put them at risk for falls
- Failure to respond to changes in residents’ medical conditions or to address residents’ medical needs, including—in some cases—emergency treatment
- Failure to provide prescribed medication
- Failure to provide adequate nutrition
- Failure to respond to allegations of sexual assault
- Failure to clean or disinfect medical devices
- Failure to provide a clean living environment and address issues such as insect infestations or septic problems
- Failure to inform residents’ physicians of missed medications or treatments
Approximately 1.3 million Americans live in about 15,600 nursing homes and other types of assisted-living centers, according to a USA Today article about the report. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services can publicly disclose the names of nursing homes in the SFF program that fail to resolver documented issues. If the sites don’t improve, their access to Medicare and Medicaid can be cut off.
These problematic facilities are also highlighted on the government’s Nursing Home Compare website, which contains information about every Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing home in the country.
Report Finds Elder Neglect and Abuse Underreported
Another new government report—this one by the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—found that many cases of elder neglect or abuse severe enough to require medical attention were not reported to enforcement agencies as required by law.
That audit indicates that nursing homes failed to report nearly 1 in 5 instances of potential abuse or neglect to the state inspection agencies responsible for investigating such claims. In five states where inspectors did investigate and substantiate instances of neglect or abuse, 97 percent had not been reported to local law enforcement as required.
Acknowledging that not all instances of elder neglect or abuse occur in nursing homes and assisted-living centers, the report took a broader look at underreporting. Auditors projected that of more than 30,000 potential cases of elder neglect or abuse between January 2015 and June 2017, about one-third went unreported to law enforcement or Adult Protective Services.
Be Vigilant for Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
One thing both of these reports indicate is that it is critical for family members and other loved ones to be aware of signs of elder neglect and abuse.
Nursing home residents are not always able to communicate neglect or abuse, and even those who are may fear retaliation if they report their abusers. Family members and loved ones of those living in nursing homes can help stop and prevent abuse in part by making their presence felt on a regular basis and making observations regarding the facility’s cleanliness, resident interactions with staff, living and dining conditions, medication access, etc.
If you suspect an elderly individual is a victim of neglect or abuse and needs immediate medical attention, you should contact local law enforcement or call 911. If you believe an elderly individual may be a victim of neglect or abuse but does not require emergency medical help, you should contact your regional Wisconsin Elder Adult At-Risk Help Line.
It’s also a good idea to discuss the situation with an experienced nursing home abuse attorney. Instances of neglect and abuse in nursing homes and other care centers are rarely limited to a single person. A lawyer who has experience with elder abuse cases can fight for the compensation victims and their families need to cope with medical expenses and other damages, while helping ensure that the maltreatment stops before other innocent people suffer.
The Madison attorneys at Boller & Vaughan are dedicated to helping Wisconsin elder abuse victims. We offer free consultations to help you understand your options, and we don’t charge for our services unless we recover compensation on your behalf.
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