Serious Nursing Home Abuse Cases May Go Unreported

daan-stevens-282446-1-copy-300x191If you have an elderly loved one who currently resides in an Escondido nursing home or assisted living facility, it is important to properly assess the risks of elder abuse and neglect. According to a recent report from NPR, particularly serious cases of nursing home abuse may go unreported. We know that many seniors sustain severe injuries as a result of nursing home abuse and neglect, and that there are likely many more cases that occur than are reported.

Federal Report Raises Concerns About Severe Cases of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

Based on information contained in an alert from the Office of Inspector General in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), however, that number might be even higher than some commentators have feared. According to the NPR report, the alert noted that “cases went unreported despite the fact that state and federal law require that serious cases of abuse in nursing homes be turned over to the police.” Investigators with HHS emphasized that the alert was issued in order to demand “immediate fixes.”

When federal investigators talk about serious and severe cases of nursing home abuse, are they referring to all cases involving patient injury? Or do some cases require a “serious” label more than others? The report indicates that most of the cases that have gone unreported are those that have been “severe enough to send someone to the emergency room.”

For example, the alert describes one case in which a nursing home patient “was left deeply bruised after being sexually assaulted at her nursing home.” In that case, the facility was required by federal law to report the incident to the police within two hours, yet the nursing home failed to take this necessary step. Not only did the nursing home fail to report the case, but the facility also “cleaned off the victim,” which “destroyed all of the evidence that law enforcement could have used as part of an investigation into this crime.” To be clear, there are allegations that the facility attempted to cover up the abuse.

Hundreds of Cases of Unreported Elder Abuse at America’s Nursing Homes

As we mentioned previously, experts have long worried that cases of nursing home abuse go unreported for many different reasons—ranging from seniors with dementia being unable to communicate their experiences of abuse to facilities engaging in active cover-ups. According to the HHS alert, federal investigators revealed at least 134 cases from 2015 and 2016 collectively in which nursing home patients sustained injuries severe enough to require treatment in an emergency department, yet many of the incidents were not reported in a timely manner.

The NPR report underscores that the 134 cases “are likely just a small fraction of the ones that exist.” In situations in which family members or staff members at facilities are not certain about reporting, they should err on the side of making a report. To be clear, over-reporting is preferable to under-reporting—at least in situations of over-reporting, cases of serious abuse are not at risk of being left unattended.

Contact a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer in Escondido

Do you have concerns about nursing home abuse in Southern California? You should discuss your case with an Escondido nursing home abuse attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Walton Law Firm to speak with an advocate today.

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(image courtesy of Daan Stevens)