What Should I Do if I Find Evidence of Nursing Home Abuse?

Caregiver mistreating senior woman

Choosing a nursing home is an important step for many seniors and their families. Moving into a nursing home is often a highly emotional decision, made only when seniors feel that they can no longer maintain their quality of life or the medical care they need if they remain in their own homes. When they move into a nursing home, seniors expect a high standard of care and support. Unfortunately, even in the best nursing homes, abuse and neglect can occur. 

What to Do in the Event of Nursing Home Abuse

Each year, Pennsylvania investigates between 25,000 and 30,000 reports of elder abuse. All too often, that abuse occurs in nursing homes, where residents have the right to expect a safe, protected living experience throughout their golden years. If you find evidence of nursing home abuse, you need to act to protect the rights of those residents. 

1. Document All Signs of Abuse Immediately

Any time you see signs of nursing home abuse, document it. If you see that a senior nursing home resident has suffered injuries or obvious signs of neglect, take photos of those injuries. If you observe abuse, including a nurse or staff member abusing a resident or a resident’s calls getting ignored for long periods, write down what you observed as soon as possible. Creating a clear record of abuse can prove essential to establishing where and when the abuse took place and seeking compensation for a loved one who may have sustained injuries. 

2. Notify the Nursing Home

Go above the staff on duty at the time abuse occurred and report the abuse or neglect to nursing home management or the board. In some cases, abuse can continue for a long time before supervisors even realize that it has taken place. A new staff member or one who is poorly supervised may end up committing abuse without anyone noticing, especially in understaffed nursing homes or those where one caregiver may be primarily responsible for specific patients.

By reporting the abuse to the nursing home directly, you alert supervisors about potential problems and give the nursing home the opportunity to protect its residents. 

3. Report Abuse to the State

Pennsylvania offers several ways to report nursing home abuse.  You can:

You can also submit a complaint through the mail to:

Division of Nursing Care Facilities Director
Pennsylvania Department of Health
Division of Nursing Care Facilities
625 Forster St., Room 526, Health and Welfare Building
Harrisburg, PA  17120-0701

If you observe nursing home abuse, including suspected nursing home abuse, do not delay in reporting. The state will launch an investigation into the abuse and get a better idea of how the nursing home is managed and help protect the residents of that nursing home. Reporting abuse does not necessarily mean the nursing home will automatically face significant penalties. However, if abuse is taking place, the state can step in quickly once it has been reported. 

4. Contact an Attorney

If you have a loved one who has suffered abuse in a nursing home, get in touch with an attorney as soon as you can. A lawyer can help advise you about your rights, from your loved one’s right to compensation to how to move your loved one to a new nursing home, if necessary. Furthermore, a lawyer can provide you with advice about the steps you can take to learn more about potential abuse without interfering with the case or the claim. 

5. Stay in Touch

If you have a loved one in a nursing home and you suspect that your loved one is being abused, try to stay in contact. Often, elderly individuals will hide signs of abuse for as long as possible, especially if they feel weak or insecure due to the abuse. By staying in contact, you can see further signs of abuse for yourself and help your loved one speak out. 

Common Reasons for Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect in Pennsylvania

Nursing home abuse is never acceptable. Residents of nursing homes have a right to expect a high standard of care, to make decisions about their own care needs, and to receive dignity and support as they go about their daily lives. However, nursing home abuse occurs all too often. There are several common reasons for abuse. 

  • Understaffing: Busy staff members may ignore the needs of residents, leading to significant neglect. Understaffing can also increase the frustration of staff members, causing them to act out against residents.
  • Inadequate training: When nursing home staff members do not receive adequate training, they may not recognize that an action is abusive or may not realize the nursing home’s standards for caring for patients. 
  • Caregiver stress and burnout: Caring for seniors can feel incredibly stressful for many caregivers. Over time, they may strike out against the elderly patients in their care.
  • Financial woes: Sometimes, caregivers suffering from serious financial concerns may exploit the seniors in their care financially, including stealing from them or pressuring them to provide money. 
  • Inadequate oversight: Nursing homes bear a strong duty of care to their residents and should oversee their caregivers to ensure that they are providing a high standard of care. When nursing homes fail to exercise that duty, however, they can fail to notice signs of abuse. 

Identifying the underlying signs of abuse can make it easier to determine when abuse is taking place. Unfortunately, some caregivers may show no external signs of the strain they are under. Instead, they may simply take out those issues on residents until someone notices and reports the issue. 

Contact a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C.

At Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C., we strive to help victims of nursing home abuse and their families recover the compensation they deserve for any damages sustained due to that abuse, from compensation for medical costs to compensation for a loved one’s suffering. Contact us at (215) 822-7575 or complete our contact form to discuss your nursing home abuse claim.