Nursing Home Laws and Regulations: When You Should Sue for Abuse
Since people are dying later in life, there are more aged people than there ever has been. Sometimes, there’s not enough staff to keep up with them all.
Not having enough staff is illegal and leads to less accountability for abuse and potential abusers.
The situation isn’t hopeless, but it’s worth learning about nursing home laws and regulations.
Where does your loved one’s facility land?
Learn about nursing home laws and types of elder abuse below.
What is Elder Abuse?
As with domestic abuse and child abuse, there are different types of elder abuse. All of them are horrific and none should be held as more harmful than the other.
That said, none of the types following are in any type of order.
Sexual Elder Abuse
Yes, there are predators that prey on the elderly and take advantage of those who can’t consent. Someone who isn’t with-it can’t consent to sexual acts.
Nor can someone who’s unable to fight back or express discomfort with the situation.
Some sexual elder abuse doesn’t involve touching at all. This could be something like the caretaker exposing themselves or engaging in inappropriate activities in the room.
If you have any suspicions, find an attorney immediately.
Emotional Elder Abuse
The elderly are a vulnerable population, partly because they don’t have anyone to stand up for them. If they’re in a home and they depend on others for care, what can they do if they’re mistreated?
Not much, and there are bad people that take advantage of that.
Some examples of emotional elder abuse include humiliation and ridicule.
Others include intimidation, threats, and habitual (behavioral) neglect.
If you loved one won’t come right out and tell you they’re being mistreated, which caretaker do they seem upset around? Do they say they don’t like someone but won’t give a reason?
That’s where you want to explore further.
Contrary to some belief, neglect is a type of abuse, not a different category. For the elderly, neglect means a failure to fulfill necessary and agreed upon obligations.
Or, obligations that are considered common sense.
For example, if an elderly person falls, it’s the caretaker’s job to get them up. “Helping patient up” may not be written perse in their contract, but you would expect them to help them off the floor.
A lot of elder neglect comes from things that are biological in nature. Failure to administer medication regularly, to change sanitary supplies, or to clean up messes.
If you visit your loved one and notice that their supplies aren’t clean, they seem woozy and out of it, or they’re not their usual selves and seem off their medication, take warning.
The easiest type of elder abuse to notice is physical abuse. Does your loved one always have scratches, cuts, or bruises?
Depending on their ability level, there’s a good chance they fell. But, do you see these injuries becoming a pattern? Are the bruises in a place that wouldn’t make sense with a fall injury?
Does your loved one refuse to tell you how they got injured or tell you the same story over and over?
Unfortunately, those who abuse the elderly are sneaky. There won’t always be visible evidence of physical abuse.
The category also includes things like under or over administering medication, restraining or isolating them. These are things that are harder to catch.
How are you supposed to know if your loved one is getting the right dose of medication? They likely don’t know and trust their caretaker.
All of these abuse types are a big reason why having enough staff is important, and thankfully, that’s the law.
In a nursing home, there are regulations for how many caretakers there are vs. patients. Think of it like a teacher-student ratio, if you will.
If there isn’t enough staff, then there will be fewer people to catch abusive behavior.
Even if someone does catch abusive behavior and they’re understaffed, they’re less likely to report it. They don’t want to lose more staff than they already have.
You’ll need to check your local and state laws to get the exact staffing number and regulations for specific nursing homes.
Another way to tell if they’re low on staff is to listen to the nurses. Are they always talking about how they’re understaffed and they have to take on more than they should?
Over-tired caretakers, even those who have the best intentions, can accidentally neglect patients.
Actual Nursing Home Laws and Regulations
Without getting too technical in the legal jargon, let’s talk about some actual nursing home regulations.
Paraphrased, some examples include:
- Proper and continuing health assessments
- Evolving and appropriate health plans
- Health deterioration prevention
- Proper hygienic care
- Responsible nutrition and feeding
- Pressure sore prevention and treatment
- Promoting and managing the highest possible quality of life
- Responsible use of resources
- Accessible and up-to-date medical records
There are more, but those are some good examples. You should always be able to find a copy of local regulations online or request one at the facility itself.
When was the last time they got inspected? Did they pass? What were their problem areas and how are they addressing them?
These are people’s lives we’re talking about, not just boxes on a list to check off.
What to Do if You Suspect Something
If you suspect your loved one is being abused or there are gaps in their care, talk to them about it.
Someone is much more likely to open up about something if you bring it up. They may feel like abuse is their fault, whether the perpetrator put that in their head or not.
Stay judgment-free and causal when you approach the subject.
If that doesn’t work, talk to the care coordinator about your concerns about nursing home laws and regulations. Ask them what steps they’ll take to investigate and have them follow up.
If you don’t see any action, you can take your concerns up with the police, an attorney, or the health department.
There are many people here to make sure your loved one gets the best care. All you have to do is ask!