When a loved one enters a nursing home, it is usually with the idea that they will receive better care than their family or friends can provide at home. Sadly, this is not always the case. However, many nursing homes do provide quality care yet still face accusations that staff members did not provide the proper care. What can health care facilities, such as nursing homes, do to protect themselves from allegations of abuse?
No one can deny that nursing home abuse is a real concern. Consider:
- An estimated five million elders are subject to abuse annually.
- Elder abuse comes in many forms, including physical, emotional, sexual and financial.
- An estimated 5-10 percent of abuse reported by alleged victims is physical, 60 percent is verbal, and 14 percent falls under the category of neglect, which often includes the failure to provide proper food, housing, medicine, and/or hygiene.
- It is estimated that 13 out of every 14 cases of elder abuse are not reported.
- Financial abuse is the most common form of abuse reported by the elderly, with 5.2 percent of cases involving a family member.
Given these statistics, it is easy to understand that when there is an accusation of abuse, nursing homes feel like the underdog, even—or especially—when no actual abuse occurred.
Protecting Against False Accusations
What can a nursing home (or another long-term care facility for the elderly) do to protect itself from accusations? As is often the case, the best course of action is to head off accusations before they occur and have a plan of action in place in case they do. This includes taking proactive steps, such as:
- Adequate Staffing: One of the major reasons nursing homes can find themselves charged with abuse—including negligence—is not having enough staff available to properly care for the number of patients in the facility on an ongoing basis. Providing adequate staffing may include having both full time and part-time help, as well as implementing an “on call” schedule to ensure coverage should a staff member be sick or otherwise unable to work his/her scheduled shift.
- Procedures and Protocols: Nursing home facilities must have standardized, written procedures and protocols for staff members to follow for all circumstances they may encounter. These procedures must be enforced, and they should include clear penalties for those who do not follow them. The National Adult Protective Services (APS) provides guidelines and suggestions that can help facilities create effective processes.
- Training: All caregivers must be properly trained to perform their duties; they also must be trained regarding what constitutes elder abuse and how to spot any signs of such abuse. This training should be ongoing and mandatory for all staff.
- Monitoring: Ensure proper monitoring procedures are in place, which may include cameras in more public areas and sign-in sheets for staff to mark the time and actions taken for each patient.
- Reporting: Ensure that there is a written procedure to be followed for anyone who wants to report suspected elder abuse. Make sure the steps to take are clear and available to staff, residents, and visitors.
Engage Visitors & Residents
An often-overlooked way to help avoid accusations of elder abuse or neglect is to appeal to the human side of both residents and visitors; sometimes, such allegations are brought on by residents feeling lonely or useless. Similarly, family and friends who feel hopeless when it comes to helping an elderly loved one may—consciously or unconsciously— be looking for someone or something to blame. In these cases, the following can help:
- Encourage family members and friends to visit as frequently as possible.
- Hold engaging events for residents daily, such as musical events, movies, exercise classes, etc.
- Encourage residents to engage with one another by hosting game nights, book clubs, wine and cheese or ice cream socials, etc.
- Provide group transportation for routine trips, such as grocery shopping and doctor appointments, which can build camaraderie while assuring such essential tasks get done.
- Plan group outings, such as to local plays, farmers markets, and other community events.
Contact Our Milwaukee Nursing Home Attorneys
While the tips above can help nursing homes and other long-term care facilities prevent accusations of abuse, most health care entities will face at least one such allegation in their lifetimes. These types of accusations can destroy the reputation—and bottom line—of a care facility with alarming speed. If your organization is facing allegations of abuse, contact our Milwaukee, WI criminal defense lawyers today at 414-271-1440.