Moving a loved one into a nursing home can be a stressful experience, especially with reports of nursing home abuse in the news so often. It’s not unusual for family members to be worried about the quality of care their loved ones receive. In fact, such worries may continue for years.
Entrusting strangers with the care of your loved one may cause concerns, but there are things you can do to advocate for your loved ones and protect them from experiencing abuse or neglect — beyond paying top dollar for the best facility around.
Being an active advocate in your loved one’s nursing home care can ensure they are receiving quality care and may improve reporting of nursing home abuse and neglect.
If your loved one has suffered nursing home abuse, Sokolove Law is here to help. Find out if we may be able to help you seek justice during a free case review.
5 Ways to Advocate and Protect Residents from Abuse
1. Research Care Options
There are 1.3 million Americans living in nursing homes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, nursing home closures are on the rise. The COVID-19 pandemic put 1,600 facilities at risk of closing and displaced more than 12,000 residents.
Facilities have been unable to keep up with the growing demand for long-term care options. In fact, nearly 30% of nursing homes in the country have reported a staffing shortage, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Staff shortages can increase the risk of residents experiencing nursing home neglect as they wait for available staff to help them. Understaffing also contributes to staff burnout, which can increase the risk of abuse, accidents, and injuries.
Thankfully, you can research how a nursing home is staffed and if the facility may put your loved one at risk of neglect or abuse.
Some tips for researching reputable care facilities include:
- Talk to friends or colleagues. Perhaps they have gone through a similar situation and can offer recommendations and tips. Nursing homes want your business, so of course they will work hard to play up the quality of their own services. Their clients and customers, however, may not have such loyalties.
- Use the Medicare Nursing Home Compare website or ProPublica’s Nursing Home Inspect tool. Both sites allow you to see reports from previous inspections, fines, and a star-rating with special attention given to health inspections, staffing, and physical and clinical care quality.
- Visit the homes you are considering. It’s a good idea to visit the facility, talk to the staff directly, and ask detailed questions. In these situations, your gut instinct is worth paying attention to. Don’t ignore that nagging feeling if something isn’t quite right.
2. Get to Know the Staff
Being on a first-name basis with nursing home staff members can establish a solid point of contact for addressing concerns and act as a powerful advocacy tool for you and your loved one.
If you’re friendly with staff, it’s more likely they’ll be friendly with you and your loved one. More importantly, they’ll also be more inclined to share information about how your loved one is doing with you directly, helping you keep tabs on their health.
Getting to know staff members at nursing homes can give you the chance to:
- Establish your support for your loved one and attentiveness to their condition
- Share the story of your loved one to those who will be caring for them
- Stress what your loved one is like, even their flaws, and how deeply you care about them
- Use a resident assessment or care plan to discuss your loved one’s personal habits, quirks, and unique needs
- Write thank you notes for anyone who cares for your loved one
Should problems arise, the staff member can be a point of contact for your concerns, and they can help you gauge the state of care at the facility overall.
The most important thing is to be open and honest. Remember that, at the end of the day, everyone involved — from patient to caregiver — is a human being with someone who cares for them.
3. Visit Often and Document Concerns
Regardless of how close you live to the care facility, you should try to visit your loved one as often as you can. Frequent visits will make your loved one happy and help you see the condition of the facility and the quality of care.
When planning visits, don’t always visit at the same time, as you’ll want to observe nursing home operations and the staff in their normal state — not necessarily when they have time to prepare.
Unfortunately, it’s often up to family members to uncover instances of neglect or abuse. Residents may be afraid or unable to communicate mistreatment, so it may end up being your responsibility to look for signs of nursing home abuse and document as much as you can.
Some signs of nursing home abuse or neglect include:
- Dehydration or malnutrition
- Poor hygiene
- Soiled linens
- Staff members refusing to leave you alone with the resident
- Unanswered call lights
- Unattended patients
- Unexplained injuries on a resident
- Wrongful death in extreme cases
If your loved one has suffered abuse in a nursing home, Sokolove Law may be able to help you pursue justice. Get started with a free case review now.
4. Report Your Concerns
If you suspect or have observed nursing home neglect or abuse, there are a few steps you can take to report and hopefully fix the problem:
- Connect with other residents’ family members: Some facilities may have a family council that you can join. If the nursing home accepts Medicare or Medicaid, they are legally required to provide a meeting space for families as well as respond to concerns raised by family members.
- Reach out to nursing home social workers: Many nursing homes will have social workers on staff ready to address the concerns regarding your loved one’s care. A social worker can speak to nursing assistants, dietitians, or other members of your loved one's care team to ensure their needs are met.
- Contact an ombudsman: If social workers at the facility are unable to address your concern, ombudsmen serve as neutral advocates for nursing home residents. They work for the state and are required to investigate complaints in a timely manner.
- Report abuse and immediate danger to the police and Adult Protective Services (APS): If you believe your loved one or another nursing home resident is in immediate danger, call 911. You can also report the abuse to APS.
If you suspect your loved one may have experienced neglect or abuse, the Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator can help you find alternative long-term care facilities that may provide them with the quality care they deserve.
5. Take Legal Action
While reporting nursing home abuse or neglect to the appropriate parties can help put an end to harmful behaviors and keep your loved one safe, filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit can hold the facility or staff accountable and protect the well-being of other vulnerable individuals.
Taking legal action can also provide financial compensation to help cover medical expenses, therapy, and any other costs associated with the physical and emotional toll of nursing home abuse.
Ultimately, legal action serves as a powerful tool to protect the rights and dignity of nursing home residents, sending a clear message that abuse will not be tolerated and those who engage in such behavior will face legal consequences.
Secure Justice for Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect
Advocating for your loved one at a nursing home can be difficult, but our nursing home abuse lawyers are dedicated to helping families like yours pursue the justice they deserve.
As a national nursing home abuse law firm, Sokolove Law has over 40 years of experience helping nursing home abuse victims.
We’ve secured over $256 Million in nursing home abuse settlements and verdicts on behalf of families across the nation.