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Unreported nursing home injuries make it hard to choose one

When doing research to find a nursing home for your aging loved one, your primary concern may be to find a home where the chances of your family member suffering from neglect or abuse are low to non-existent. You may try to look into reports of unexplained injuries indicative of abuse or neglect that may happen in a particular nursing home and either find none or very few.

This may give you a feeling of security when it comes to choosing a nursing home, but that feeling may be misplaced. Apparently, many instances of abuse and neglect go unreported despite laws requiring it.

A recently released report

Recently, the inspector general's office of Health and Human Services released a report regarding this issue. The office thoroughly reviewed Medicare billing records looking for instances where nursing home staff took residents to the emergency room. The review discovered approximately 6,600 cases of neglect and abuse that nursing homes failed to report. That represents approximately 18% of the cases reviewed.

Sadly, your loved one could end up part of these statistics. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, said that it would increase oversight of nursing homes to ensure they meet their reporting requirements for dementia patients suffering abuse and/or neglect in nursing homes. However, that may not be enough to ensure the safety of your loved one. CMS will also do the following: 

  • Issue better guidelines to nursing homes
  • Improve training for the staff at the facility
  • Provide clearer instructions regarding the kind of incidents nursing homes should report
  • Require state inspectors to track and record potential issues
  • Require state inspectors to record and track events reported to police

The problem is that authorities do not always discover or investigate nursing home neglect and abuse. Residents may hesitate to tell anyone what they've been through out of fear. Many don't even tell their friends or family. Even when state inspectors become aware of an incident, the information may not get to law enforcement.

What can you do?

All you can do is make the best choice possible. If you suspect abuse or neglect of your loved one, you can report it to law enforcement yourself after you ensure the safety of your loved one. Thereafter, you may want to consult with an attorney experienced in elder law.

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