The worst thing to do when you suspect abuse of an elderly loved one in a nursing home is to wait and see if you’re right. Everyone has a responsibility to report suspected abuse regardless of the age of the victim or your relationship to him or her. It is better to speak up and risk being wrong than to stay silent and regret it later.
With that said, nursing home abuse is such a confusing and frightening situation that it may be difficult to know where to turn first and what exactly to do. This guide can help you take the appropriate steps.
1. Ensure Your Loved One’s Safety
This may mean calling 911 if your loved one is in immediate danger. It may also be necessary to remove your loved one from the facility if you think he or she could otherwise come to further harm.
2. Remain Calm
There is nothing more upsetting than watching a loved one in pain, but becoming angry and antagonistic will not improve the situation. Be assertive, but not aggressive, in discussion with nursing home personnel.
3. Talk to Your Loved One, if Possible
If your loved one has dementia or is nonverbal, this may not be effective. However, even if your loved one is impaired to some degree, he or she may be more aware of what is going on than anyone might realize.
4. Gather Evidence
Whatever symptoms you see or troubling signs you hear, take pictures and make notes about them. Ask questions of staff and lucid residents. Do not worry that you are imposing on them. Caregivers will understand your concern and try to help if they are trustworthy.
5. Discuss with Doctors and Administrators
Your loved one’s doctor may have the necessary information and resources to either confirm your suspicions or identify another cause of your loved one’s symptoms. Discuss your concerns with administrators early in the process, and be prepared to follow up as necessary.
6. Report to Authorities
By law, the nursing home must post the name and phone number of the state official responsible for investigating possible cases of elder abuse and neglect. This person is called the Ombudsman, and you can call to report suspected abuse. You can also contact the appropriate adult protective services for your state.
Regardless of age or condition, every nursing home resident has a right to be treated with respect and dignity.