More than 25 percent of serious nursing home abuse cases go unreported,
according to a recent report by the Office of Inspector General (OIG)
for the Department of Health and Human Services. Given that there are
more than 100,000 nursing home residents in California alone, the estimated
number of unreported abuse cases is staggering.
The latest report is part of the OIG’s ongoing efforts to detect
and combat elder abuse. As we have previously discussed on this San Diego
elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation are all too common in nursing homes.
A 2013 study of 2,000 nursing home residents found that 44 percent of participants
acknowledged that they had been abused. An alarming 95 percent stated
that they had been neglected or seen another resident neglected. Seniors
often fail to report abuse themselves because of fear of retaliation,
lack of physical and/or cognitive ability to report, or sheer embarrassment,
which makes it even more important that others speak up.
Reporting Requirements of Skilled Nursing Facilities
Skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) are legally obligated to internally investigate
potential abuse or neglect within certain timeframes. Suspected abuse
causing serious bodily injury must be reported to local law enforcement
in two hours or less. If the suspicion of abuse does not involve serious
bodily injury of the nursing home resident, facilities have 24 hours to
To determine how well skilled nursing facilities are fulfilling their obligations,
investigators compared emergency room records suggesting abuse with the
corresponding nursing home’s safety record. The investigators found
134 cases of abuse of nursing home residents severe enough to require
emergency treatment, the vast majority of which involved sexual assault.
Of those, 28 percent of the abuse cases were likely not reported to local
"There's never an excuse to allow somebody to suffer this kind
of torment, really, ever," said Curtis Roy, an assistant regional
inspector general in the Department of Health and Human Services. In light
of the findings, the
OIG report concluded that CMS has inadequate procedures to verify that incidents of potential abuse
or neglect of SNF residents are identified and reported.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect
Loved ones are often a nursing home resident’s best advocate. Below
are several warning signs that family and friends should watch out for:
Weight loss: If you notice your loved one is losing weight, it could be a sign that
he or she is not receiving proper nutrition and hydration. Over time,
this condition could be life threatening.
Bruising: Bruises are always concerning because they suggest that your loved one
may have been injured in a fall, or even worse, been struck by another
patient or healthcare worker.
Falls: While the elderly are prone to falls, serious or frequent incidents may
indicate that the facility is not taking the proper precautions to keep
your loved one safe. Always investigate the causes of falls and find out
what will be done to prevent similar incidents in the future.
Bedsores: Pressure sores or decubitous ulcers (bedsores) are frequent signs of
neglect. They are caused by prolonged pressure on the bodies of patients
who are allowed to remain in one position for long periods of time. The
painful sores are almost always preventable.
Restraints: Nursing homes may employ a wide variety of restraints, from physical cuffs
to prescription medications. While these measures may be warranted, some
facilities use them as a means to avoid providing necessary patient care.
If you or someone you love has fallen victim to nursing home abuse or negligence,
don’t hesitate to contact
a San Diego personal injury attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.