Common steps to take when nursing home abuse is suspected

Many incidents of elder abuse go unreported, but family members can take steps to protect their loved ones who are in senior centers.

Nursing home abuse may be more prevalent in Connecticut than the majority of the population realizes. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, a recent study done in New York showed there were approximately 24 unknown cases of neglect for every one reported incident. Many victims of abusive behavior either do not want to or are unable to report the manipulation they go through. Because the victims of this neglect may not be willing or able to advocate for themselves, family members need to take an active role if nursing home exploitation is ever suspected.

Report the problem

When family members suspect a nurse or doctor is neglecting their loved one, reporting the issue to an administrator or trusted doctor may be a good place to start. However, it can be challenging to know who is a part of the abusive behavior and who is not. For this reason, it may be better to report the suspected neglect, abuse or exploitation with Adult Protective Services, which is the primary public agency designed to protect vulnerable senior citizens.

Wait for an investigation

Before any actions can be taken to stop the mishandling, the Adult Protective Services agency has to make sure the neglect can be proven. After a preliminary screening to determine the seriousness of the case, an agent may be assigned to the investigation. Often, this person looks for signs of abuse at the nursing home or assisted living center in question.

Throughout the investigation, the Adult Protective Services can provide a few amenities, such as monitoring the situation, planning a case, arranging new medical services or lining up supportive services for the victim. Such services can help reduce the stress for the elder and his or her family members.

Answer questions

Once the problem has been brought to light, the agency may have questions for whoever reported the mishandling. Common questions include the following:

· Does the victim have family support to rely on?

· Could mental health issues be a factor in the exploitation?

· Have there been documented incidents of abusive behavior, such as yelling or hitting?

· What signs of abuse, such as bruises, depression, bed sores or broken bones, have been noticed?

These questions help the caseworker better understand the situation. For example, a patient with Alzheimer's or dementia may be more susceptible to neglect than a patient who has normal cognitive functions. Often, the agent will want to get the name, address and telephone number of the person reporting the incident. However, in some cases the whistle blower may remain anonymous.

Elder abuse may not be a common problem in Connecticut, but it does still exist. A knowledgeable attorney may be able to help ensure the proper steps are taken to report and correct this misconduct.