If you suspect that your relative or friend in a nursing home or an assisted living facility is being neglected or abused, do not ignore it. Here is a list of actions that you can take:
Talk to the Victim
Talk in detail to the elderly patient and put together the story so that you are certain what has happened or what is happening. Ask question and try to verify the story by checking on the claims that are being made. For example, if the patient complains that someone is stealing from him or her, attempt to determine if the personal items are really missing or are they being stored for safety at the nursing facility? Have they been previously given away by the patient? Did the patient actually have the items at the facility? Attempt to verify the account given by the patient by speaking to any other coherent patients. If you’ve become friendly with the family of other patients, you can compare notes of what they’re seeing or hearing too.
Document the Claims
Document the claims made with written notes taken by you, including the date you received the information, along with photographs or video. Photograph or video any injuries and make notes when this was completed. If possible use your camera’s time and date stamp to show when the record was actually made, and include a ruler in the photographs or video to document the size of the injuries. Gather together any pertinent records having to do with the story, such as medical records, prescriptions, or bank records. After these actions, you should not be hesitant in talking with the management about your concerns and take notes of their side of the story. Also, talk to the nurses and nurse’s aides who are on duty to find out what they know about the situation.
Remove the Victim If Necessary
Make a determination if the patient should be removed from the facility. If the patient may be in danger, move them to another location immediately. Gather the names of all of the administrators and staff that you and your family came in contact with. Get the names of other patients and their family members who may be witnesses or who may themselves have suffered there. Take pictures. You will not have another chance to access this information as easily when you no longer have a patient living there.
Contact the Appropriate Agencies
If you believe that a nursing home abuse or another crime has occurred or is occurring, notify the local law enforcement authorities and provide them with copies of all your records and photographs. In many jurisdictions across the United States, you are required by law to make such a report concerning elderly abuse or neglect. There are strict time limits on how long after an incident you can bring a lawsuit, so you want to document the time, date and details of the events.
Once you have established the facts as best you can and if you believe misconduct has occurred, contact the state regulatory commission that oversees and certifies nursing homes or assisted living facilities in that jurisdiction. Don’t forget the local and county governmental agencies too. Also contact the state’s social services department, elderly protective services, or adult protective services depending on what it is actually called where you are located. Get in touch with the Long Term Care Ombudsman program in the nursing home’s area.
Your notes, documents, records, photographs, and video recordings will be an important asset to any of those agencies that may begin their own investigation. Make certain you keep a copy of anything you turn over to someone else, even your own attorney.
Contact a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
If it appears there may be inadequate care in some manner, contact an attorney who has extensive experience in nursing home and assisted living facility abuses, so you do not miss the cut-off for filing a claim. They will be well-versed in how to proceed and they can advise you of what needs to be done. Do not forget to provide your attorney with all your records that you have collected during your inquiries. These are very important because they will often be the earliest documentation of an existing problem.
If other victims are found to have suffered at the hands of the facility in question, there may be a class action suit. You’ll want your own attorney to advise you on the merits of pursing your own private case, rather than joining in.
Also, depending on the type of case, certain time limits apply. If you are considering legal action, do not delay in contacting a lawyer. He or she will be able to explain these limits to you. Remember, the clock is ticking. Don’t be left behind.
This area of law is complicated and you should have an expert to help you work within the legal system. Many nursing homes are owned by a large corporation that is ready to fight you every step of the way with their staff of attorneys. The corporation’s assets may be concealed in layer after layer of overlapping corporate entities. Your professional nursing home abuse attorney will have the tools and experts needed to ferret out this information. Call us today for a free and confidential consultation.
American Bar Association
Kaiser Family Foundation
University of Illinois Extension, Elder Abuse & Neglect