Deciding to move a parent or other family member into a nursing home or assisted living facility is never an easy choice. But it’s often necessary when a person knows their loved one has medical needs that make it difficult or impossible for them to live independently.
However, many people also worry about their loved ones’ health and happiness after moving them into a nursing home, and that’s because many nursing home residents will experience abuse or neglect.
If you’ve been following our blog, you may have already read how to recognize signs of abuse, and that means you know that nursing home abuse isn’t always physical. In addition to intentional injuries and illnesses caused by neglect, nursing home abuse can also include emotional abuse and even financial abuse like theft, extortion, and fraud.
Worse, research suggests most elder abuse goes unreported. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), incidents that put nursing home residents in harm or immediate danger rose by nearly 11% between 2013 and 2017.
If you suspect your loved one is being abused by nursing home staff or other residents, you need to act to keep them safe. But how?
Who to Contact When You Suspect Elder Abuse
Depending on the type and severity of harm you suspect your beloved family member has suffered, there are several different people and resources you can reach out to about your concerns. You may even decide to contact more than one to cover your bases.
Helpful resources when dealing with suspected nursing home abuse include:
- 911 – If your loved one is in immediate danger, calling emergency services can get them the medical treatment they need, and bring police to the scene to file a report.
- Your Loved One’s Doctor – Health care professionals and social service practitioners in Louisiana are legally obligated to report suspected cases of physical or mental abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Let your family member’s physician know your concerns, especially if they are not affiliated with the nursing home. If they find symptoms of abuse, they will be able to make a report to the correct agency.
- The Nursing Home – The nursing home where your loved one lives may be unaware of abuse or neglect on the part of its employees. If the nursing home accepts Medicare or Medicaid, it is required by federal law to have procedures in place for when residents or family members of residents want to file a grievance, which they then must investigate.
- The Louisiana Ombudsman Program – Ombudsmen protect the rights of residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and they’re trained to handle a variety of complaints and concerns. Additionally, ombudsman services are confidential and free of charge. You can reach your local Louisiana ombudsman representative by calling (866) 632-0922.
- The Louisiana Elderly Protective Services – While most people are aware of Child Protective Services, they may not be aware that the state also runs Adult Protective Services (for disabled abuse victims age 18-59) and Elderly Protective Services (for abuse victims aged 60 and up). You can report abuse by calling (800) 898-4910 for APS and (888) 810-1819 for EDS.
- The Louisiana Department of Health, Health Standards Section – This organization is responsible for licensing all healthcare facilities in Louisiana, including nursing homes, adult day cares, and residential care providers. It is also responsible for investigating allegations of abuse, neglect, exploitation, and extortion. You can report abuse at a nursing home by calling (888) 810-1819.
- A Lawyer – Nursing home abuse is often very difficult to prove because victims may be afraid to speak out for fear of retaliation. Victims suffering dementia may also be unable to remember or recognize abuse for what it is. An experienced nursing home abuse attorney will know how to collect evidence that proves the abuse or neglect happened, and fight to get your family compensation for the harm caused.
How to File a Complaint
When you file a complaint, it is important to do so in writing so there is a record of it. If you file a complaint by phone, make sure to submit a written complaint afterward that summarizes what was discussed on the call.
It’s important to include as much detail as you can in your complaint, including:
- The name and location of the facility
- The names and titles of facility employees who may be responsible
- Descriptions and photos of any injuries
- Descriptions and photos of unsanitary conditions
- Descriptions of changes in behavior in your loved one that may be the result of abuse
- Statements from witnesses
- Dates of incidents
- Any other important details
It may take up to 30 days for an investigation of your complaint. If more than 30 days go by without a response, make sure to follow up. You may also need to speak to an experienced nursing home abuse attorney to make sure your complaint is taken seriously.
The statute of limitations for nursing home abuse cases in Louisiana is just one year – one of the shortest in the nation. That’s why you may want to consult a lawyer even earlier, so that if your complaint is concluded with the nursing home saying no harm was done, your family member has an advocate ready to assert their rights to safety and demand compensation.
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