Nursing homes are responsible for providing the utmost care and attention to their elderly residents. But, all too often, nursing home residents fall victim to neglectful institutions or abuse from staff or other residents.
If you have a loved one living in, or looking to move into, a nursing home, consider learning how to recognize signs of neglect and abuse as early as possible, and how to report it if it does happen.
What Is Abuse in Long-Term Care?
According to the National Research Council, abuse happens in nursing homes when caretakers and staff willfully injure, confine, intimidate, or punish residents to the point that they are physically harmed or experience mental anguish and pain. The council also defines neglect in nursing homes as failing to provide the necessary goods and services to prevent physical injury, mental suffering, and pain.
In case you need to know how to report a nursing home to the state of California, you will also have to understand what constitutes abuse in long-term care. These definitions and further readings on the Nursing Home Reform Act under the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) of 1987 would be good places to start.
The next question would be, “What is the most common abuse in nursing homes?”
What Are the 3 Most Common Complaints About Nursing Homes?
Before you can report elder abuse in nursing homes, it helps to become familiar with the common examples of abuse and neglect in nursing homes.
Unfortunately, the Office of the Inspector General only vaguely hints at complaints being categorized into two types:
- Immediate jeopardy – an ongoing or continued risk of serious injury, harm, impairment, and death of a patient
- Non-immediate jeopardy – non-compliance on the provider’s side that negatively impacts a resident’s mental, physical, and psychosocial well-being.
An early study commissioned by Congress and conducted by the Institute of Medicine gives a clearer picture of those complaints. It identified three categories of harm which occur in nursing homes:
- Inadequate Care
As mentioned, abuse is when someone inflicts physical or mental pain, while neglect is the failure to provide the care and attention expected of nursing homes.
Inadequate care is when provisions are provided but not enough to ensure the resident’s health, safety, and well-being. For example, a short-staffed nursing home might have nurses on-site, but they are so few that some residents have to wait hours before their needs can be attended to (tragically, such delays can cost someone their life).
Other Types of Elder Abuse
The California Department of Social Services provides examples of abuse in nursing homes against elder adults or people 60 years and older:
- Physical abuse – includes under and over-medicating
- Sexual abuse – includes forcing an elderly to view pornographic materials
- Abandonment – willful desertion
- Isolation – keeping the elderly from receiving visitors, phone calls, mail, etc. from family and friends
- Financial – theft, misuse of the elderly’s money through fraud or coercion
- Neglect – failure to provide for the elderly’s needs
- Mental – includes verbal assault and fear-mongering
- Abduction – taking an elderly out of the state or preventing them from returning to the state
Every county in California has an Adult Protective Services (APS) agency tasked to investigate reports of abuse against elderly residents in nursing home facilities, hospitals, hotels, apartments, and private homes.
If you have witnessed or suspect any of these abuses against elderly residents, you may file a complaint against the offending nursing home.
How Do I Report a Nursing Home to the State of California?
Anyone, not only residents and their families, may file a complaint against nursing homes suspected of abusing or neglecting their elderly wards to the Licensing and Certification Division of the California Department of Public Health (DPH).
Here are the steps for reporting elder abuse in nursing homes:
– Prepare the complaint – Succinctly describe the incident and include the following:
- The nursing home’s name and address
- Your name, contact information, and your relation to the harmed resident
- Date and time of the incident/s
- A concise description of the incident/s
- Names of the people who committed the acts of abuse or neglect
- Names of witnesses, if any
- Documents or records that can provide evidentiary support to your complaint.
– Submit your complaint and documentation to the DPH.
– Depending upon the gravity of the complaint and harm or potential harm, you may want to inform other organizations about your complaint as well. Garnering public attention to your complaint is a textbook method for ensuring that a proper investigation takes place and the guilty individuals will receive appropriate penalties. You can send copies of your complaint to the following:
- The California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR)
- The Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud & Elder Abuse (BMFEA), if the complaint is serious abuse or neglect or Medi-Cal fraud.
- The Ombudsman’s Office
- The offices of relevant California Senators
- The office of your California Assembly Member
– Wait for a call from the DPH within two days of submitting your complaint. They must inform you who your assigned investigator will be.
– Ask to meet your investigator before they conduct their on-site investigation. You can give them additional information about your complaint and ask for their plans for the investigation.
– Get in touch with CANHR if the DPH fails to meet investigation timelines as stated in the California Health and Safety Code:
- An on-site investigation must start within ten days of receiving your complaint.
- If the resident is in imminent danger, the DPH must conduct an on-site investigation within 24 hours of receiving your complaint.
If you don’t feel comfortable or safe putting your name on the official complaint, you can file it anonymously.
The Residents’ Bill Of Rights
After their study, the Institute of Medicine recommended reforms, which prompted Congress to write the Nursing Home Reform Act and pass it as part of the OBRA 1987. It established the ten rights of nursing home residents that are still recognized today.
- The right to not receive any form of abuse, neglect, and mistreatment;
- To not be subject to physical restraints;
- To have privacy;
- To have their medical, physical, psychological, and social needs provided or accommodated;
- To enjoy the company of their family and participate in activities with other residents;
- To be treated with dignity;
- To speak out and communicate freely;
- To exercise self-determination;
- To be an active participant in the planning of their care plan. This means being aware of any changes in their care or treatment and the status of the facility itself; and
- To raise concerns and grievances without fear of discrimination, reprisal, or retaliation.
The Residents’ Bill Of Rights outlines the primary benefits and courtesies that residents and their families can expect from nursing home facilities. Facilities must inform residents of these Rights. Then, if the facility denies or fails to fulfill these rights, residents or their families are entitled to ask the facility how to report patient abuse or how to report nursing home neglect.
Reporting Abuse and Neglect in an Assisted Living Facility
Facilities in California that provide assisted living, personal care, and supervision, while not healthcare facilities, still must maintain licenses for Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFEs). The law requires these facilities to meet the certain standards for staffing, quality of care, and training among other requirements. Moreover, these facilities often work together with licensed professionals such as home health, physicians and nurses.
The process of reporting abuse or neglect in an RCFE is similar to reporting nursing home abuse and neglect: file a report with the Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing Division and an investigation takes place. Penalties or litigation can follow based on the findings and ruling of the investigation committee.
Reports of abuse can stall or revoke a facility’s license to operate. Knowing how to anonymously report a facility and pushing through with it may be reactive. Still, it can help ensure that the facility will conduct internal audits and investigations, hold staff guilty of abuse and neglect responsible, mete out the appropriate sanctions, and provide the quality of care their residents expect and deserve.
Failing to Report Nursing Home Abuse is a Crime in California
California law requires certain people to report any witnessed or suspected incident of abuse or neglect of elderly or dependent adults.
CA Senate Bill 2199 states that everyone who has assumed responsibility for looking after elderly residents in a long-term health care facility – from the custodians to nurses to facility administrators – are “mandated reporters.”
A mandated reporter must know how to report abuse in a hospital or how to anonymously report a nursing home as they are legally required to file a report if they:
- Witnessed an incident of abuse
- Received information or evidence of an incident of abuse
- Were told by an elder or dependent adult that they experienced abuse (subject to exceptions, like if the resident has been diagnosed with dementia)
- Have reasonable cause to believe that an incident of abuse happened
California law requires mandated reporters to know how to report nursing home abuse and neglect. It is an individual duty, which means no supervisor or facility administrator can stop staff members from filing a report. Similarly, staff who witnessed or became aware of nursing home abuse or neglect cannot ask another employee to do their duty for them.
However, mandated reporters can only report known incidents of abuse. It is no longer their duty to investigate such events because that is the jurisdiction of the APS agencies. Nevertheless, a mandated reporter must know how to report patient abuse in California.
Report Nursing Home Abuse with Holm Law Group
Nursing homes and RCFEs are supposed to be a safe and comfortable place for the elderly. Therefore, it is only natural that you would explore facility options when older family members start needing constant care and assistance in their day-to-day activities. Unfortunately, even though there are many qualified, competent, compassionate, and kind caregivers, nursing home abuse and neglect is more common than you might think.
Should your elderly family member experience abuse or neglect in their nursing home or RCFE, know that you can report the abuse and that you are entitled to explore your legal options to ensure that you receive fair compensation and that it does not happen again.
Holm Law Group specializes in elder abuse and neglect cases. Our seasoned lawyers work hard to help victims of nursing home abuse and their families. We advocate and fight for the rights of elderly residents and hold accountable the people and facilities responsible for their suffering. We approach each case with utmost care and compassion. You can count on our dedication to providing the best legal services to you and your loved ones.
Get in touch with us if your loved one has endured abuse or neglect in their nursing home or RCFE. Contact Holm Law Group today. We always do our best to reply within 24 hours of receiving your message.