Is Nursing Home Abuse Considered Medical Malpractice?
Helping our loved ones transition to the next stage of their lives in a nursing home is difficult for every family. Unfortunately, getting them settled in and Medicare up-to-date isn’t the end of the road of moving into a nursing home.
A report published by the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee found that one in three nursing homes in the United States were cited for abuse that may be considered medical malpractice over a two year period.
Approximately 5,283 facilities received 9,000 individual citations from those who report nursing home abuse and medical malpractice. Crimes ranged from inadequate sanitation to malnutrition and dehydration to preventable accidents.
These violations weren’t the result of a bad day: they hurt residents and are illegal.
Your duty as a loved one of a person in a care home isn’t simply to visit: it’s also to report nursing home neglect or abuse in nursing homes that could potentially result in a legitimate medical malpractice case.
What Constitutes Nursing Home Abuse?
Just like elder abuse, nursing home abuse ranges across a broad range of behaviors and isn’t always detectable right away, particularly when the person being abused is suffering from memory issues related to dementia.
The most obvious signs of abuse are physical abuse, which can be committed by staff or other residents. Slapping, pinching, or allowing residents to fall are all types of violence.
Psychological abuse is also illegal. It includes shouting, shaming, or humiliating the patient.
Neglect makes up the bulk of many of the abuse citations, and it often isn’t malicious but the result of poor policies, training issues, or inadequate staffing. Like physical abuse, neglect takes a physical toll and is demonstrable.
Patients may also be sexually abused, which features sexual exploitation or unwanted attention either from a caregiver or another patient. Patients with dementia are particularly susceptible because they’re cognitively compromised.
What Are the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse?
The signs of abuse may manifest physically or in personality. It’s important to pay attention to behavioral changes over time to best determine whether they’re the result of disease or abuse.
Still, any suspicion should be reported. Unfortunately, elder abuse rarely begins and ends with a single patient in a facility.
Here are some of the symptoms:
- Bed sores
- Recurring infections
- Weight loss
- Emotional outbursts
- Poor hygiene
- Caregivers who hover when families visit
This list isn’t exhaustive, and some of the signs can be invisible, so it’s important to check in with your loved one regularly to notice more subtle signs of abuse.
How to Report a Nursing Home for Medical Malpractice
If you believe your loved one or someone else in the nursing home is being abused, then you should report it. Even if it’s not your family member or friend, it soon could be.
You have several reporting options. Start by contacting the U.S. Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116. They’ll provide you more information on elder abuse laws in your state and explain the proper channels.
Another avenue to report nursing home abuse is via your family member’s primary care physician. In most cases, primary care physicians are required to report suspected abuse in nursing homes – failure to report may be medical malpractice.
If you suspect the damage is threatening the life or immediate wellbeing of your family member, call 911.
Be Your Elderly Loved One’s Advocate – Report Nursing Home Abuse
While some within the industry suggest that nursing home citations are over-reported because of high and changing standards – elder abuse exists. And it’s often a silent epidemic.
The best thing you can do for your loved one is to be there even after they transition into their new home and keep a sharp eye out for signs of abuse. You can ensure every older adult receives the dignity they deserve.