Do you suspect a loved one is being abused in a nursing home? Nursing home abuse is more common than you may think. Every year, thousands of nursing home residents are abused and neglected. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) says that only 1 in 24 cases are reported. The low number of reports is likely due to fear of retaliation. Unfortunately, not everyone has an advocate to stand up for them if retaliation does occur.
If you suspect nursing home abuse, you need to find out what’s going on and take the necessary action to resolve the situation. Sometimes that requires filing a lawsuit.
If you’ve never had to address this kind of situation, these tips will help you protect your loved one.
1. Document all possible red flags
The number one priority is to document every red flag you see. Don’t wait until later on to document events and situations from your memory. Document everything as you become aware with names and dates, and keep that documentation in a dedicated journal.
If you’re not sure what constitutes a red flag, do some research on the signs that might indicate elder abuse. Some of these signs are easy to pass off, but shouldn’t be ignored. For instance, poor nursing care is indicated by pressure sores, behavioral changes, dirty or bloody clothing, burns, sudden weight loss, and the appearance of being overly medicated.
Document everything that might be a red flag, no matter what your loved one (or a nurse) says to explain the situation.
2. Don’t use a nanny cam without a lawyer’s advice
You might be tempted to install a nanny cam in your loved one’s room to find out what’s really going on when nobody else is around. This is a huge mistake that can get you in heaps of trouble.
The Wiretap Act of 1968 makes it illegal to secretly record any communication taking place where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. With few exceptions, it’s legal to record video on public property in public areas. However, nursing homes and long-term care facilities are private property and a patient’s room (even if it’s a shared room) is likely to be considered an area with a reasonable expectation of privacy.
The only circumstance that might make a nanny cam legal is if your loved one is living at home and has home healthcare workers that come to the house. However, the legality of secretly recording on private property depends on your state.
For example, some states only require one party to consent to being recorded. If that’s your state law, your loved one’s consent would probably be enough to make recording legal without telling the home healthcare workers about the camera. However, if you live in an “all-party” consent state, you can’t record unless you inform everyone they’re being recorded. This means you’ll need to tell all home healthcare workers that you have a nanny cam installed.
Although federal law is clear, there are exceptions when permission is granted.
Five states allow camera monitoring in nursing homes
In an effort to hold nursing homes and long-term care facilities accountable, five U.S. states have passed laws allowing residents and families to install cameras for 24-hour monitoring.
With consent, monitoring a patient with a video camera is legal in Texas, New Mexico, Washington, Oklahoma, and Illinois. Other states have similar legislation in the works.
Talk to a lawyer before installing a hidden video camera
Regarding video recording, the laws are complex and processes need to be followed to the letter for your actions to be considered legal. If you want to install a video camera in your loved one’s room, talk to a nursing home lawyer first.
3. Request a transfer for your loved one
If your loved one reports being abused by a specific staff member regardless of their position, request a transfer immediately. Most facilities will be happy to put your loved one in another area where that particular staff member doesn’t work. They might need to go on a waiting list if there isn’t a bed available, but it’s worth waiting for if you don’t have any other options.
A transfer won’t hold the staff member accountable, but it will reduce the chances of continued abuse and potential retaliation from filing a formal complaint.
Talk to a nursing home lawyer if you suspect abuse
These tips are designed to help you handle a potentially abusive situation, but if you suspect abuse, you should talk to a nursing home lawyer right away.