It is never a simple or easy decision to place a loved one in a nursing home. When we entrust a loved one to the care of a nursing home, we believe that the administration and staff will protect our loved ones and treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve. However, this is not always the case in nursing homes. We often hear about and see heartbreaking reports of abuse and neglect, putting some of the most vulnerable members of our society in harm’s way.
What makes this worse is that it is also common for nursing homes and assisted living facilities to cover the abuse and neglect that is taking place. According to a 2017 report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), one in four or about 25% of serious nursing home abuse cases are not reported to the authorities.
Here are just a few strategies nursing homes use to conceal incidents of abuse and/or neglect that occur in their facilities:
Not reporting the incidents: Even though nursing homes are required under the law to report suspected abuse and/or neglect to the Department of Health and Human Services or to a state health agency, many are not diligent about it. Staff members may refrain from reporting because they may be afraid of losing their jobs and livelihood. Administrators may hesitate to report because they may worry about the facility’s reputation.
As Rhode Island nursing home abuse lawyers, we know that administrators at nursing homes and owners of these facilities are more worried about their own profitability than protecting their vulnerable residents. Some nursing homes even have unwritten policies that discourage employees from reporting injuries to residents. There are facilities that may retaliate against staff members who do report these incidents by firing or demoting them.
Lying about injury and harm: In some cases, a nursing home may cover up injury or harm to a resident with lies. For example, an administrator or employee at a nursing home may say that a resident suffered an injury because of a fall when it may have been caused by physical abuse. There have even been extreme cases where staff members try to hide injuries on residents by using makeup, clothing with long sleeves, etc. Lying about a resident’s injury or trying to cover it up is illegal and is often a blatant attempt to protect the nursing home from being held accountable.
Falsifying records: This is another strategy nursing homes utilize to cover up abuse or neglect. Administrators may order staff members to doctor nursing home records or they may be ordered to create new ones. In other situations, a staff member may simply input false or inaccurate information because they are overworked or want to save time. For example, they may input information without even monitoring or checking the resident’s condition, which could be dangerous.
Not documenting injury or harm: When a resident is being abused or neglected, there are typically a number of telltale signs. For example, if a resident is being physically abused, there may be symptoms such as cuts, burns, bruises or even broken bones. If the resident is being neglected, such as being denied food or fluids, he or she may suffer unexplained weight loss. If a resident is being emotionally abused, he or she may become more withdrawn or show changes in mood or personality. They may also become more agitated or withdrawn. When you don’t see documentation of such obvious signs, it may be a sign that your loved one is being abused or neglected.
What to Do If You Suspect Abuse or Neglect
Never ignore any signs that your loved one may be suffering abuse or neglect while in the care of a nursing home or assisted living facility. Make it a point to talk with your loved one often or visit them whenever possible at different times, so you get a full picture of how they are being treated. If you notice any physical signs of neglect or abuse, reaching out to an experienced Rhode Island nursing home lawyer is the best way to go. You can try talking to nursing home administrators first. But, if you don’t get a satisfactory answer, there is a good chance that they are attempting a cover-up.
A knowledgeable Rhode Island Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer knows how to look for signs of neglect or abuse and the tactics nursing homes employ to hide their actions and evade accountability. Call our office at 1-800-992-6878 or fill out an online contact form for a free (no obligation) case evaluation.