If you are the relative or friend of someone in an Ohio nursing home, you should pay attention to the type of care that person appears to be receiving. Not all nursing home residents are capable of communicating that they are being mistreated.
According to the National Center for Elder Abuse, female nursing home residents and older residents are most likely to become victims of nursing home abuse. The Center’s study also found that almost one third of nursing homes in the United States were cited for violating federal standards during a three-year period and 1 in 10 were found to engage in violations that placed the elderly in danger of death or serious injury.
Anyone can file a complaint about suspected nursing home abuse. In Ohio, certain professionals like doctors, nurses, lawyers, physical therapists, social workers, law enforcement, and emergency response personnel are required by law to file such reports.
Typical types of nursing home abuse
Some common types of nursing home abuse are physical injuries, neglect, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse and false imprisonment.
Signs of Physical Abuse: Broken bones, bed sores, bruises, medication overdose, injuries from falls, and restraint marks.
Signs of Neglect: Sudden weight loss, poor hygiene, dehydration or malnourishment, and soiled bedding or other unattended medical needs.
Signs of Sexual Mistreatment: Bleeding or bruises in the genital area, torn or bloodied underwear and sexually transmitted diseases.
Signs of Verbal Abuse: Resident showing fear around certain persons, visible depression or anger, rocking, or mumbling (“false dementia”).
Signs of Emotional or Behavioral Changes: Frequent crying, agitation withdrawal or fear, personality changes, depression or social isolation, and complaints of poor treatment.
Another type of abuse is False Imprisonment which is when a nursing home staff member prevents a resident from leaving a room, wing or facility by leaving them without their wheelchair or crutches, or by threatening them in some way.
Financial abuse occurs when the patient’s bank account information is stolen or he or she is pressured to modify a will or trust.
If a staff member does not seem to want to leave you alone with an elderly resident, this could be another sign something is going on that staff person does not want you to know about.
In general, nursing homes are held to a high standard of care. The federal Nursing Home Reform Act requires all facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funds to maintain safe places for their residents. Whether nursing homes receive federal aid or not, nursing home residents have a “bill of rights” that promises them the right to be free of verbal, mental, physical and sexual abuse. Ohio also has its own set of laws to prevent nursing home abuse.
How to report abuse
By taking action about an abusive situation, you are demanding accountability from the care facility that allegedly abused someone. You send a message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated. Your actions may also prevent another person or family from going through a similar experience.
1. If there is a family member or “health proxy” who has been designated to make health decisions for the resident, you may want to let them know about the situation and get their thoughts before acting on your own.
2. However, if you do not receive a satisfactory response from a family member, you should next consider if the problem seems to be with one staff member and could possibly be corrected by the intervention of a supervisor. If so, you could file a complaint with the director of nursing and give him or her a small amount of time to correct the situation.
3. If neither of these approaches is successful, or the problem appears to be one that needs immediate action, call Adult Protective Services (APS) in the county in which the facility is located, and tell them what is going on. They should provide a complaint form you can file. You can also contact the Ohio Department of Aging Long-Term Care Ombudsman or the Ohio Department of Health.
4. There is also an Elder Abuse hotline in each state if you deem the situation an emergency.
5. If you have suspicion or evidence of a criminal act, contact the local police and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
6. Follow up on any action you take so your report will not fall through the cracks.
This article was written by Attorney James W. Slater of the Akron, Ohio law firm of Slater & Zurz LLP