Overview of Abusive Behavior In A Nursing Home

Abuse in a nursing home is one of the most egregious acts that can be perpetrated in society, particularly when the abuser is in a position of trust or authority, such as in a nursing home. Statistically, almost one-tenth of Americans who are over 60 years old have experienced elder abuse in one form or another and this is a conservative estimate. Some place the numbers as high as 5 million, yet only about 7 percent are reported. Reasons for under reporting of elder abuse include fear of retaliation, lack of awareness about abuse, and Stockholm Syndrome. Many professionals don’t recognize the signs of abuse and so don’t report them and sometimes the supposed professionals are the abusers, as in the case of nursing home abuse.

What is abusive behavior in a nursing home and how do you know if it exists? Abuse in a nursing home can be physical, sexual, emotional, neglectful or exploitative. It’s defined as an intentional act that can cause harm to an older adult and is perpetrated by an authority figure. It can also be a lack of action that can cause harm, as may happen in a nursing home or skilled nursing facility. The government defines an older adult as one who is at least 60 years old and current statistics indicate that over 13 percent of Americans fall into this category, and more than 6 million of them are at least 85 years old. Sometimes, abuse isn’t blatant and you may need to be very observant. For example, if your friend or relative is in a nursing home and develops bed sores, if they develop body odor or don’t seem to be clean, if they become fearful or if you notice bruises or other injuries, they may be the victim of abuse. Financial abuse can occur if jewelry disappears or they have an increased need for spending money. If your loved one is consistently dehydrated or malnourished, if they suffer from “accidents”, or if medication is inappropriately administered, they may be the victim of abuse.

How To Report Abuse In A Nursing Home

Most states have stringent laws regarding abuse of the residents in a nursing home and you needn’t have concrete evidence before reporting your suspicions. Although some individuals such as doctors and other health care professionals, social workers, and caregivers are required to report abuse in a nursing home, they may not always do so. If you believe your loved one is in immediate danger, contact the local law enforcement agency.

If you suspect abuse at a nursing home facility, you can speak to the supervisor or head nurse about it, or you can discuss it with your loved one’s doctor or the facility administrator. If your efforts with the staff are unproductive, don’t hesitate to escalate your problem to a higher authority. Medicare offers information on reporting abuse in a nursing home and links to the appropriate states are provided.

If you suspect abuse in a nursing home in Arizona, you can report it to the state’s Adult Protective Services at (1-877-767-2385) or you can complete their reporting form online. You’ll need to include the resident’s name, the name and address of the nursing home, the details of your complaint, and your contact information.

Most states have an ombudsman appointed to its various regions and you can report your issues to the ombudsman. Arizona’s state ombudsman can be contacted at:
Office of the State Long Term Care Ombudsman
1789 W. Jefferson St (site code 950A)
Phoenix, AZ 85007
(602) 737-0342 Voice
(1-602) 542-6575 Fax

Contact a nursing home abuse attorney if your loved one is being abused in a nursing home. If it’s happening to you, there are probably many others who have been subjected to it as well. Don’t delay seeking remediation. As an impartial party, an attorney can advise you on the best action to take to secure the safety of your loved one.