What you should do if you suspect neglect or mistreatment at a nursing home
Each year, there are approximately 20 to 30 thousand reported complaints of exploitation, neglect and abuse in nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the U.S. Thousands of more cases are unreported.
Staff shortages in nursing home environments can be directly linked to neglect and abuse. Only 1 in every 14 cases of elderly neglect or abuse comes to the attention of authorities or healthcare administrators. In the nursing home environment, 2 out of 3 staff surveyed state they have abused the elderly in some manner within the last year.
The elderly with dementia or physical impairment are at the highest risk of abuse as are those who are isolated or vulnerable in other ways. According to the Nursing Home Abuse Center, 70 percent of state surveys won’t find a nursing home deficiency and 15 percent of surveys miss incidences of immediate danger or harm to an elderly resident.
How to file a complaint against a nursing home
There are several ways to file a complaint against a nursing home in Georgia. If you feel your loved one is in immediate danger, call 911 and remove your loved one from their location.
The following steps are ways to file Georgia nursing home complaints:
- File a complaint online with the Georgia Department of Community Health.
- File a complaint with Georgia’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. Their direct telephone number is 1-800-878-6442. Expect to leave a message with your name, nature of the complaint and a contact number where someone can reach you.
- File a complaint online with Georgia’s Department of Human Services: Division of Aging Services.
Elder abuse and nursing home abuse in Georgia
An investigative report by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) exposed allegations of nursing home abuse and neglect across Georgia and a lack of transparency by nursing home facilities.
An investigative report by the non-profit newsgroup ProPublica revealed 10 percent of Georgia nursing homes were found to have a serious deficiency in care and faced approximately $8.57 million in penalties in 2019.
What constitutes abuse?
Abuse can be physical, verbal and sexual. It encompasses neglect, abandonment and financial appropriation of an elderly person’s assets or material goods. It has been shown that people in their 50s and 60s experience a higher level of verbal or financial abuse than people over 65.
According to the Elder Justice Act, Subtitle H in Title VI of Public Act 111—148 PPACA, elder abuse is defined as the “knowing infliction of physical or psychological harm to an elderly person or the deprivation of services they need to avoid physical or psychological harm.”
Particular types of abuse can be comprised of various elements and several types of abuse can occur at the same time such as:
- Physical abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Exploitation or financial abuse
What are the signs of elder abuse?
There are signs which may warrant further attention or investigation in situations where the following signs of abuse can be seen. Not all signs by themselves will be proof; however, these can be warnings that an elderly person may be a victim of abuse:
- Signs of fear around a certain person or persons
- Cuts/puncture marks
- Weight loss/dehydration
- Torn undergarments
- Sudden and unexplained changes in will
- Extreme agitation
- Change in behavior
- Disappearance of personal possessions
- Welts/raised or inflamed marks
Unfortunately, the following abuses are known to occur in nursing home environments against the elderly:
- Under-dosing or overdosing of medication
- Failure to follow doctor or pharmacist orders
- Failure to monitor or treat
- Verbal abuse
- Physical threats and assaults
- Failure to immediately report injury or illness
What steps to take if you suspect abuse
It is frightening to think that your loved one could face abuse by those entrusted to care for them. If you suspect abuse or neglect in the nursing home, speak to your loved one and assure them you’re handling it. Document everything you see and what your loved one has told you. Immediately file a complaint with nursing home administrators.
You should never confront the caregivers of your loved one directly. This may lead to further abuse. It may be necessary to remove your loved one from the environment they are in for their immediate protection. Though you may have already filed a formal complaint with the nursing home administration, it is in your loved one’s best interest to speak to a Georgia nursing home abuse lawyer.