The Underreporting of Nursing Home Abuse

The Underreporting of Nursing Home Abuse

If you have a loved one in a nursing home, you most likely worry about them frequently. But the one thing you probably don’t want to think about is the possibility of abuse. Abuse of the elderly continues to be a problem despite laws and watchdog organizations. Did you realize that cases of nursing home abuse involving serious bodily injury require the home to report to the police within two hours of the incident? Less-serious incidents must also be reported, but within 24 hours. A federal law specifying what must happen when abuse occurs has been in place for over five years, but unscrupulous nursing home operators continue to flout the law.

Why is Elder Abuse Increasing?

Why is the incidence of elder abuse on the rise? For one thing, we have more seniors (defined as age 60 or older) and almost-seniors in our country than ever before in history. Radical improvements in medical care, plus the enormous number of baby boomers (those born between 1946 and roughly 1963), mean more older folks in our nation’s population. On top of that, the older you get, and the longer you live, the more likely it is that you will end up in a nursing home for a significant period of time. The numbers change constantly, but it’s been estimated that about 30 percent of seniors will spend up to three years in a nursing home, with 10 percent of them staying in one more than three years.

The HHS OIG Alert

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (HHS OIG) released an alert on August 24, 2017, concerning the lack of reporting of serious nursing home abuse. Shockingly, over one-fourth of serious abuse cases were not reported to the police as the law dictates during the studied period, which ran from January 1, 2015, through December 31, 2016. Practically all of the serious cases involved sexual abuse. While their review of nursing home abuse and neglect is ongoing, the HHS OIG decided to release the alert as soon as they could, citing the need for immediate fixes.

Among the 28 percent of persons who were seriously injured but whose abuse was not reported to the police, one case stood out. A woman suffered deep bruising as a result of her sexual assault. Yet, not only did the nursing home not report the incident to the police within two hours as required, the nursing home:
• Cleaned off the victim, destroying evidence
• Waited until the next day to inform the family, who then told the police
• Tried to cover up the crime by lying, telling the police there was no need to investigate the incident.
Curtis Roy, an assistant regional inspector general in the Department of Health and Human Services, and his team discovered 134 cases of abuse, mostly sexual, that were serious enough to require emergency treatment. The abuse occurred in 33 states. Illinois had 17 cases; Michigan had 13; Texas had 9; and California had 8. Roy commented, “There’s never an excuse to allow somebody to suffer this kind of torment, really, ever.”
Investigators also discovered that Medicare was partially at fault. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) did not enforce the requirement to report serious abuse to the police and other agencies. Failing to report means risking fines of up to $300,000.

When something goes wrong, we are left to wonder.

Many nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Indiana are part of a larger chain. They have a full-time legal department and resources to routinely dispute abuse and neglect claims. Too often, they are focused on shareholder profits rather than patient safety.
If you suspect a nursing home has abused your loved one, contact Mike Stephenson. At McNeely Stephenson we will work with you to hold the facility accountable for the pain and suffering they caused. Your elderly loved ones deserve to live in safety and dignity. A lawsuit against an Indiana nursing home won’t undo what has already been done, but it can recover the large sums of money you have paid the negligent facility and any medical expenses caused by the abuse.
The Indianapolis elder care lawyers at McNeely Stephenson have been trusted advisors and proven advocates since 1982. Call 1-317-825-5200, or use our online contact form, for a free consultation.