The elderly are one of the most vulnerable groups of people in our society. However, sadly, nursing home abuse is an unfortunate occurrence that happens all too often. If someone you love is a nursing home resident and you suspect they are being abused, you must take action immediately. Most people know that you should report nursing home abuse immediately, but they often do not know the steps to take or who to report it to. If you suspect a loved one is being mistreated, neglected, or abused in an Indiana nursing home facility, contact Gerling Law Injury Attorneys for guidance and advocacy.
Nursing home facilities and employees may face criminal and civil repercussions if they allow or participate in the abuse. Unfortunately, not all long-term care facilities are equal, and some provide better care than others. Many facilities find themselves understaffed and underfunded, leading to significant problems. Minimal staff and resources lead to overworked and tired employees. It can also mean less emphasis on adequate training and poor hiring practices—all of which are a recipe for disaster. It is up to the public to report abuse at a nursing home caring for their loved ones.
Who Do You Report Nursing Home Abuse To?
You can report nursing home abuse to several authorities, depending on the circumstances. First and foremost, if you suspect severe abuse especially sexual assault or physical abuse, you should contact the local police department immediately.
In Indiana, as in most places, nursing homes are governed by strict rules and regulations. The Indiana Department of Health established the Health Care Facility Complaint Program, which receives and processes complaints and concerns for facilities and entities licensed and regulated in Indiana.
Submitting a Complaint to the Indiana Department of Health
You can submit a complaint of nursing home abuse to the Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) fairly quickly through their website or over the phone. To submit a complaint, you need the name and location of the facility. If available, you can submit additional information, such as the following:
- Name of any resident, patient, or client affected,
- Name of the staff member or facility involved,
- Date and time of the alleged incident, and
- A brief description of your concern.
Although helpful, this additional information is optional.
The IDOH will typically respond to your submission via written letter within 7-10 business days. This correspondence will certify your complaint was received and is under investigation.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
There are generally seven types of nursing home abuse.
Physical abuse involves intentionally, recklessly, or negligently inflicting pain or bodily harm. Physical abuse can include hitting, kicking, pushing, and slapping. The use of restraints could also constitute physical abuse.
Abandonment happens when facility employees leave residents unattended for a prolonged period of time. Abandonment can lead to physical ailments such as bed sores and severe psychological harm.
Emotional abuse is one of the most common forms of nursing home abuse. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, emotional abuse is defined as the infliction of anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts. These acts include but are not limited to, verbal assaults, insults, threats, intimidation, humiliation, isolation, and harassment.
Examples of emotional abuse include yelling at residents, making fun of residents, and threatening them with harm. Emotional abuse is also a typical result of other forms of abuse. For instance, if residents are subjected to physical abuse or abandonment, they may suffer emotional harm as well.
Unfortunately, non-consensual unwanted sexual abuse happens in nursing homes. If you believe your loved one was sexually assaulted, you should immediately report it to the police.
Believe it or not, financial abuse frequently occurs in nursing homes. It can involve stealing a resident’s money or belongings. However, it can also be less obvious and more deceptive if a staff member befriends a resident and tricks or swindles them into signing checks, supplying credit cards, or giving bank account information. So even if it looks “friendly,” an employee who coerces or otherwise tricks an elder into giving over their money has likely committed financial abuse.
Neglect is defined broadly as the failure to care for someone properly. Neglect includes failing to administer required medications, failure to provide adequate food and water, failure to assist with hygiene, and failure to provide a means of mobility.
Sometimes, a nursing facility can be held responsible for cases of self-neglect. Self-neglect in a nursing home occurs when a resident can no longer take care of themselves. This neglect can lead to other health issues. So if it becomes readily apparent to the facility that a resident can no longer care for themselves and they ignore it, the facility could be held liable.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
If a loved one is an Indiana long-term care resident, you should familiarize yourself with the signs of nursing home abuse. Knowing what to look for can make the difference in immediately catching inappropriate, illegal, and impermissible behavior.
Common signs of nursing home neglect and abuse include the following:
- Bed sores,
- Broken bones,
- Poor hygiene,
- Unsanitary living conditions,
- Unexplained weight loss, and
- Sudden fearfulness and anxiety.
Family and friends must recognize these signs as many nursing home residents suffer from some form of dementia or inability to communicate, which makes them especially vulnerable to abuse. Reporting nursing home abuse at the first sign of suspicious conduct is key to preventing further abuse. If you suspect something, you should always speak up.
Sometimes, families take matters into their own hands and will initiate a civil lawsuit against the offending facility. But successfully pursuing a lawsuit takes time, money, and extensive legal knowledge. Let Gerling Law assist you from the inception of your claim through the investigation phase, negotiations phase, and eventual trial if the case goes that far.
Indiana Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys
If you suspect a loved one is suffering from nursing home abuse, it is crucial to take action immediately. At Gerling Law Injury Attorneys, we will help you report abuse in the nursing home to the proper authorities. If warranted, we will assist you in pursuing a civil lawsuit against the facility and staff. Our elders are the most vulnerable, and we make it a priority to advocate for them. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to assess the situation and discuss your options!