How Nursing Homes Hide Evidence Of Abuse And Neglect
As the United States population ages, more and more of our friends and relatives will enter nursing home care or assisted living. There are currently more than 52 million Americans aged 65 and older, with that number expected to exceed 80 million by 2040. These growing numbers place pressure on facilities that may have already been short-staffed and overburdened to begin with. Sadly, elder abuse is one byproduct of these circumstances.
Elder abuse, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) involves intentional acts or failures to act that cause or create a risk of harm to adults aged 60 or older. Most often, elder abuse happens at the hands of a caregiver, or a person the senior trusts. Types of elder abuse frequently include psychological or emotional abuse, physical abuse, financial abuse, and sexual abuse.
Rates of Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes
Elder abuse occurs in nursing homes across the United States and in Tennessee every single day. It is a distressing but unavoidable fact. Approximately 1 in 6 seniors in nursing homes experience abuse each year. In nursing homes, 2 out of 3 staffers report committing or witnessing some form of abuse each year.
Some of this has to do with the business models of nursing homes in general. To maintain profits and minimize administrative expenses, nursing homes may be understaffed – with employees that are undertrained, underpaid, or poorly managed. In some cases, new staffers do not even undergo basic background checks. These factors all combine to put seniors at risk.
What Facilities Do to Disguise Nursing Home Abuse
It is not good business for nursing homes to report all incidents of abuse to the proper authorities. This can expose them to legal liability, criminal charges, and repercussions from the State of Tennessee and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
To avoid penalties, facilities might take the following steps or shortcuts:
- Falsifying Records and Patient Charts
One of the most common methods of covering up abuse involves falsifying data in a medical chart. Omitting information about pain and swelling, for example, or changing information to reflect more positively in the chart are things that can and often do happen. When an investigation occurs, these falsified charts can cover up issues that were a problem for the patient.
- Ignoring Changes in a Patient’s Condition
New or worsening conditions may get left off a patient’s chart in favor of maintaining the “status quo”. Some examples of intentionally overlooked changes may include:
- Bruising, cuts, or swelling
- Signs of malnutrition or dehydration
- Emotional distress, crying out, or other indicators of emotional torment.
- Not Reporting Physical Abuse or Sexual Abuse When it Happens
The most accurate way to document issues related to abuse is to document and report it when it happens, or as soon as possible. Not surprisingly, some staff and facilities will intentionally delay or fail to report these issues. This makes it harder for an investigative agency – or a court of law – to review the incident at a later date.
- Bullying or Intimidating Patients
Sadly, a common way to minimize reports of abuse has been to intimidate patients into keeping silent. Because there is an imbalance of power between an elderly patient and the facility that oversees them, seniors may feel compelled to keep secrets when it comes to abusive conduct.
The Knoxville, Tennessee Nursing Home Litigation Attorneys at Atkins Brezina, PLLC, Will Investigate a Case and Take Legal Action When Necessary
We trust nursing homes and assisted living facilities to take care of our loved ones when they are at their most vulnerable. Unfortunately, they sometimes let us down. And when they do, they can’t always be counted on to report the problems themselves. When a nursing home is responsible for abuse and neglect, they can be held legally responsible for their misconduct. Our Knoxville nursing home malpractice lawyers at Atkins Brezina, PLLC, will hear your concerns, examine legal options, and take all required action including the filing of a lawsuit when needed.