If your loved one is living in a nursing home, you expect them to be treated with great care, professionalism and understanding. After all, why would someone work with the elderly if they didn’t have patience and a good heart? Unfortunately, life is more complicated than that, and elderly people are not exempt from being victims of abuse. If you suspect that your beloved senior is experiencing abuse at the hands of a staff person or another resident at the nursing home, there are actions that you can take.
Listen Intently and Document
It’s easy to become irrational when you think about your elderly family member or friend getting abused where they reside. However, it is essential that you remain calm so you can get to the bottom of what’s going on with your relative or friend. Write down everything that the victim tells you. Listen calmly the first time, and then ask questions. Depending on the health of the victim, you may have to revisit the conversation a couple of times before getting the full story. Even if you are not completely sure that the story is true, always show support to the victim, expressing empathy and understanding.
Take Photos and Videos
After the victim has shared a story of abuse or neglect, be sure to properly document if there are visual injuries. Of course, you should be sensitive and ask the senior if it’s okay with you taking pictures. If they say yes, take photographs and videos on your smartphone of any scratches, cuts, bruises, etc. that may be sure signs of abuse. If there are signs of negligence in their environment, take photos of that as well.
Approach the Staff
Always speak professionally to the nursing home staff because if you approach them with aggression, they may be dismissive or fearful of getting to the root of the truth. Ask to speak with management and present the situation without losing your temper. If you think management has been involved in the abuse, you may want to go above management for a resolution. After hearing their side of the story, document their answers and save them for when you speak with your attorney.
Protect Your Relative or Friend
Even if management denies that any abuse has taken place, you should take every precaution to ensure that your beloved senior is in good hands. Make sure that the staff understand that the alleged abuser cannot have any contact with the victim. If it’s a staff member, discuss with management who will cover the shift and assume those responsibilities instead of the abuser. If it’s a fellow senior, let every staff member who interacts with the victim know that the two cannot be together in the same room without supervision.
Contact the Police
This may seem extreme, but there have been many seniors who have died because of abuse in a nursing home. After you hear about the abuse from your loved one and approach management, there should be a clear path to acknowledging and rectifying the situation. If the investigation is too slow or not a priority, you should take matters into the hands of the law. Also, if the level of abuse is not minor and seems to have occurred more than once, you should contact the police immediately and file a complaint.
Contact an Attorney
If you can afford to move the victim out of this nursing home and into another one or provide another form of senior residential care, you should look into those options. Sometimes an investigation or lawsuit can take a while to come to a conclusion, and there may not be any time to waste. If your relative is willing and healthy enough to be moved, this may be an option worth looking into for your senior’s best interests.
Make More Visits
If you are unable to move your loved one out of the nursing home, be sure to make frequent visits. When you can’t make it, send another family member or friend to check up on the senior. Even though the nursing home should provide the best care under all circumstances, they will be more likely to treat your loved one with care if they know that you are paying close attention to their services. This may be the best option for those who do not have many nursing home options in their nearby area. Also, while you are visiting regularly, you should speak with an attorney about your options.
Contact an Attorney
When you suspect that your loved one has been a victim of abuse at a nursing home, then you should always contact an attorney who specializes in nursing home abuse. If you contact an attorney for a free consultation, you can ask questions about the law and understand what a violation would look like. An attorney would also be helpful in guiding you throughout this process. When approaching the nursing home staff, you may not know what questions to ask and how to take the proper steps to report abuse. By consulting a lawyer, you will know what corrective actions need to be taken and how you can proceed forward with your loved one’s best interest at heart. For those who cannot afford attorney fees, do not let this stop you from connecting with the right law firm for you. Typically, you will not pay out of pocket, and the law firm will only recover a fee if you win a settlement at the end of your case.
A poorly run nursing home can be a traumatizing and fatal experience for its residents, especially for those who are living with dementia, Alzheimer’s or have great difficulty caring for themselves. If you suspect that your loved one may be a victim of abuse and neglect, you should immediately look into the situation by getting informed by an attorney, speaking with management and contacting the police. Whether it’s neglect or psychological, physical and/or sexual abuse, you have to take these allegations seriously so you can ensure that your loved one can live out the rest of their days in a safe and caring environment.