Does abuse occur in nursing homes? Unfortunately, it does for a variety of reasons. Boston nursing home abuse can be obvious or difficult to detect, especially if your loved one has cognitive limitations such as Alzheimer’s. Many cases of abuse are the result of understaffed facilities where untrained employees work extensive hours at low pay. Poor supervision, the prevalence of hiring employees with criminal records and cutting back on certain services also account for the prevalence of abusive and dangerous practices.

Nursing homes are regulated and monitored by state and federal agencies that periodically inspect facilities and issue citations for regulatory violations. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, conducts inspections of those facilities that accept government payments to ensure that such facilities are complying with performance and quality standards. Residents are entitled under law to a safe and hygienic environment, to be treated with respect, and to be free from any form of abusive practices.

What are Signs of Abuse?

You can generally tell when something is wrong with your loved ones. They may not appear as you have to expect and look malnourished, be experiencing dizziness or unusual depression or even exhibit injuries about which you were not advised. The following are some of the more common signs that your loved one is not being treated properly and may have been the target of abuse:

  • Bedsores and untreated wounds
  • An unclean room and clothing
  • Signs of dehydration
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Too many falls
  • Being heavily sedated
  • Bruises on arms and genital areas
  • Restraint marks on wrists and ankles
  • Fear of certain staff members
  • Abnormal depression and anxiety
  • Forced isolation from others

You may want to check your relative’s medical records to see if medications are being administered or if they conflict with your loved one’s insistence that no medication is being given. If you can, talk to other residents about your loved one’s care and mental condition or if they have observed signs of abuse or ill treatment from the same staff members on other residents.

Steps to Take if Abuse is Suspected

Certain indicia of abuse are too obvious such as bedsores, unwashed clothing, an unclean living environment or incidents of frequent injuries. Mental abuse, though, may require more investigation and an examination by a psychologist.  You should be proactive in reporting suspected abuse, but what do you do if the suspected abuse is not so obvious or you are unsure? Consider these steps in the reporting process:

  1. Talk to the nurse or staff member who is in daily contact with your loved one. It is possible a staff member may be unaware of specific instructions regarding your relative’s medical care. If so, you can follow up to see if your loved one’s needs are being met. You may want to begin keeping a detailed log on what you observe and what discussions are being held.
  2. If the staff member denies that anything is wrong or is unable to adequately explain certain injuries or why your loved one’s room, body or clothing is unclean, contact the supervisor. If the supervisor does nothing or is slowing in responding, put your complaint in writing but be cordial and not accusatory.
  3. If you feel your loved one needs immediate attention, arrange for it yourself including calling 911, especially if your loved one is in pain.
  4. If you feel your complaint or concern is still not being handled, contact the facility administrator. In many cases, they do want to help and will talk to the staff about your concerns.
  5. If the abuse is serious or you are not getting satisfaction, you can report suspected abuse to the Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services (Mass HHS), Adult Protective Services Division.
  6. Or, you can contact an ombudsman through the Mass HHS, A national web site to find a local ombudsman is ltcombudsman.org. An ombudsman is an advocate who handles complaints regarding government regulated agencies such as nursing homes and who will investigate your complaint.
  7. Contact a nursing home abuse lawyer.

Should you contact a nursing home abuse attorney? In some cases, taking legal action can result in needed compensation for your loved ones if they suffered a serious injury or had been subjected to various types of abuse that caused substantial emotional distress and/or physical injury. An investigation of your complaint or the injuries sustained by your loved one can be conducted by the CMS, who will interview the staff and administration, review the clinical records and inspect the entire facility to determine if nutrition, safety and staffing policies and practices are in compliance. If not, citations can be issued and form the basis for an injury or abuse claim.

Consult a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

Paul Tetzel is an experienced and dedicated nursing home abuse attorney who has investigated and filed claims on behalf of nursing home residents who have suffered physical injuries and mental abuse from the negligent or intentionally cruel acts of nursing home staff. Boston nursing home abuse is real and your loved ones need not suffer at the hands of those whom you entrusted with the care of your parent, spouse or partner. Call him today for a free consultation about suspected or alleged nursing home abuse.