Nursing Home Complaints: How to Report Abuse or Neglect
The decision to move a loved one into a nursing home can be difficult. It's comforting to know there will be staff available to provide necessary care and supervision. But how well those staff members have been trained, and how well are they supervised?
These are valid concerns, especially in light of media reports of elder abuse. A study by the Office of the Inspector General found that 22% of Medicare users in long-term care facilities suffered an avoidable "adverse event." Half of those events — falls, medication errors, pressure ulcers, etc., — were avoidable.
Victims of abuse, who are already in a vulnerable position, are often unable to protect themselves. They must 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.
Gather the Facts
When you report an incident of nursing home abuse or neglect, provide enough information to allow investigators to determine if immediate action is needed. For example, if there is physical abuse, does the resident need immediate hospital care? If there is financial exploitation, does the resident need help blocking access to bank accounts?
When collecting information for a nursing home complaint, it's important to document the following:
- The statements of the victim (if possible) and those of any witnesses (staff or other residents)
- Incidents you observed, as well as locations, times, and dates
- A timeline of events you observed to establish a pattern
- If you complained to staff, with whom you spoke, when, and what was said
- Statements of nursing home supervisors regarding the incident
- Any injuries the resident suffered, with descriptions, pictures, and medical records (if possible)
- Statements of the victim's medical providers (at the nursing home or off-site)
- Information about the victim's finances, if you're in a position to procure it
Emails or letters from staff or medical providers are a good way to document their statements in their own words. If you speak with staff, always send a follow-up email confirming what they told you. This allows them to correct the record, if needed.
The more accurate information you can document early on, the better. Your complaint could serve as the basis for criminal prosecution or a civil case to recover damages for the victim.
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. Use 911 for situations requiring immediate attention.
Each state and territory has an Adult Protective Services (APS) agency, many with A 24-hour hotline to report abuse. Contacting APS will trigger an investigation and possible referral to law enforcement if criminal activity is suspected.
State attorney general offices investigate nursing home complaints. They can bring criminal or civil actions as warranted. The California Attorney General's Office, for example, has a bureau dedicated to addressing complaints of elder abuse.
Bringing a complaint to your state's attorney general can also lead to increased oversight of a nursing home. If problems are severe, it could lead to its certification or its license to operate may be revoked.
In addition, each state has a long-term care ombudsman, which provides nursing home residents with advocates to resolve their complaints and improve their quality of care and life. This service is usually free of charge. Ombudsmen can:
- 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
- Involve law enforcement if needed
Learn more about the long-term care ombudsman program.
Once you've filed a nursing home complaint with authorities, they can begin an investigation. They will issue a report of their findings. If additional incidents occur after you have filed your report, be sure to report these as well. This will ensure that a resident receives the protection that he or she needs.
Nursing Home Complaints: Related Resources
Get an Evaluation of Your Nursing Home Claim Today
One of the most effective ways to stop abuse in a nursing home is by enlisting the help of a local elder law attorney or a personal injury lawyer. If you're not sure whether you have a valid claim, call for an appointment.
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