Elder abuse is much too prevalent in nursing homes across the U.S. An estimated one to two million senior citizens have suffered mistreatment, injury, or exploitation by a caretaker, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA). Even more alarming, for every case of elder abuse or neglect reported, roughly five more go unreported, the NCEA estimates. If your loved one resides in a nursing home, you will want to take routine precautions to protect her and prevent nursing home abuse.
There are two primary components of nursing home abuse prevention:
- First, you can learn all that you can about the facility and its abuse prevention policies, and check in regularly with your loved one to stay privy to any signs of abuse.
- Secondly, you can empower your loved one with knowledge, reassurance, and resources so that she can recognize and report abuse and get help if she feels neglected.
Our firm has handled numerous nursing home abuse cases throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We have witnessed, first-hand, the pain and distress families go through when their loved ones suffer harm at the hands of their caretakers.
To do our part in putting a stop to this nationwide public safety issue, we have shared a library of helpful information that can assist you in recognizing and preventing abuse so that your loved one does not fall prey to harm. In this article, we provide you with specific resources you can give your loved one to empower her to protect herself and prevent abuse.
If you suspect your loved one has been abused or neglected, call our nursing home abuse attorneys at Cordisco & Saile LLC to investigate your legal options: 215-791-8911.
What resources can I give my loved one to report abuse?
Explain to your loved one that abuse of any kind is not acceptable and that she absolutely should not tolerate it. Tell her if that she suspects any kind of abuse – be it physical, emotional, sexual, or financial – she is to call someone for help.
If the threat is serious or imminent, calling 911 is her best route. Also make sure she has your phone number handy to contact you if she is concerned or feels something is amiss.
If your loved one is comfortable with using a cell phone, you can program your and other resource phone numbers into her contacts. Otherwise, give her a written list of important phone numbers to keep somewhere private in her quarters. In addition to your number, arm her with the following elder abuse prevention and reporting resources:
Eldercare locator, a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging (AOA), provides community resources and services for older adults and their families. You can also go to the Eldercare Locator site and search for abuse prevention resources in your specific community: 800-677-1116.
Adult Protective Services
APS, a division of the Department of Human Services, investigates reports of abuse. To report the need for protective services, you or your loved one can call the APS hotline. To find the correct number by county: in PA: 800-490-8505; in NJ (contact numbers listed by county).
The Department of Health
Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Division of Nursing Care Facilities: 717-787-1816. The NJ Department of Health’s Complaint Hotline: 800-792-9770.
The Ombudsman program, managed by the Department of Aging, helps people resolve their complaints about long-term care. Their vision statement reads: “Advocate for those who can’t, support those who can, and ensure all long-term care consumers live with dignity and respect.”
Provide your loved one with the number to the applicable state headquarters. In PA: 717-783-8975; in NJ: 877-582-6995.
Trusted family members
Do not forget to give your loved one the phone numbers for other trusted family members and close friends. Some victims feel more comfortable sharing their concerns with personal confidantes rather than authorities.
What other resources can I give my loved one?
If your loved one still has fair mental faculties, you can provider her with some of the following many freely available public resources.
- The NJ Department of Health’s Nursing Home Residents in New Jersey: We Have Rights! brochure
- The Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly’s See it! Report it! Prevent it! poster
- The Department of Aging brochure: Know your rights as a nursing home resident
- The Health in Aging tip sheet: Preventing Elder Abuse and Neglect in Older Adults
- Our blog post, What to Do if You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse
What are some other ways I can protect my loved one from abuse?
For starters, ensure the long-term care facility where your loved one resides is reputable and has solid abuse prevention and reporting policies in place. Ask the administrator for copies of their policies, and address any questions you may have about the facility or its caretakers, their staff-to-patient ratio, and care/services that they will provide your loved one with.
Also, visit or talk to your loved one often, ask questions, and investigate any red flags, such as bed sores. The more on top of matters you are, the better able you will be to spot any signs that indicate abuse or neglect, report it, and put a stop to it early on.
In addition to asking your loved one about abuse, if your loved has certain mental limitations, such as dementia, that make discussing abuse impossible, always monitor her for behavioral changes.
If preventing elder abuse is issue that is near and dear to you, you might consider getting involved in advocacy and volunteering at a local department.
James McCracken, New Jersey Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly, encourages: “I urge anyone who is truly concerned about elder abuse and exploitation to call my office at (609) 826-5054 to find out about how to become a volunteer advocate. Volunteer advocates receive 32 hours of training and are asked to spend four hours a week at a local nursing home, listening to residents’ concerns and advocating on their behalf.”
Beyond reporting, what else can I do if my loved one has been abused?
Do not just make abuse prevention a one-time discussion with your loved one. Each time you visit and ask her how she is doing, reiterate that she can call anytime if something feels wrong.
Share this advice from the AOA with your loved one, too: “If you have been the victim of abuse, exploitation, or neglect, you are not alone. Many people care and can help. Please tell your doctor, a friend, or a family member you trust, or call the Adult Protective Services program in your area. Relay your concerns to the local Adult Protective Services, Long-term Care Ombudsman, or police. If the danger is not immediate, but you suspect that abuse has occurred or is occurring, please tell someone.”
If your loved one has suffered physical, emotional, and/or financial harm because of a nursing home’s negligence or willful misconduct, you will likely have legal grounds to pursue damages from the facility by filing an insurance claim or civil suit. Potential compensable damages include those for:
- Medical bills related to the abuse
- Emotional damages
- Pain and suffering
- Legal fees
For a free consultation with an elder abuse attorney that assist families in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, contact Cordisco & Saile LLC. We can explain your legal rights, help you hold negligent facilities liable for the harm they have caused your family, and pursue maximum compensation for your loved one’s losses. Call our office today at 215-791-8911 for a free, no-obligation meeting.