Nursing home abuse happens far more often than you might realize. For instance, an estimated 5 million older Americans are abused every single year, according to statistics compiled by the National Council On Aging. However, another study found that 25 percent of nursing home abuse cases are never reported to local, state, or federal authorities.
Evidence is critical in cases involving elder abuse, but sometimes nursing homes and assisted living facilities try to hide or cover up proof of negligence. If you suspect your loved one is the victim of abuse or neglect at a nursing home or assisted living facility in Alabama, your family deserves answers. An experienced nursing home negligence attorney can find the facts that matter and fight for the justice your family deserves.
How nursing homes try to cover up abuse & neglect
There are many different ways nursing homes try to conceal abuse or neglect from family members, investigators, and nursing home inspectors, including:
- Not reporting abuse or neglect – In Alabama, nursing homes are legally required to report any incidents of suspected abuse or neglect to the Alabama Department of Public Health. But the department can only investigate if someone reports the incident. Fearing it will hurt the facility's reputation, some nursing home administrators turn a blind eye to reports of abuse or neglect. Other facilities may have unwritten policies in place that deter staff members from reporting incidents, and some staff members may fear they will get fired or retaliated against for making reports.
- Destroying or hiding evidence – If there’s evidence of nursing home abuse or neglect (blood on clothing, for example), some nursing homes try to destroy or hide the evidence, even though that’s against the law.
- Lying about an injury or illness – If a nursing home resident becomes injured or sick due to abuse or neglect, some nursing homes lie about what happened. For example, an abusive employee might claim, “I didn’t do anything.” Likewise, a staff member who witnessed a resident slip and fall due to a dangerous hazard might say, “I didn’t see anything.”
- Falsifying records – Nursing homes are required by law to document all injuries, illnesses, and other serious medical incidents. Instead, some nursing homes falsify records and don’t record what actually happened in a resident’s medical records or in official nursing home reports, which must be submitted periodically to various state and federal agencies.
- Not documenting changes in a resident’s medical records – Sometimes, a nursing home resident’s medical condition worsens over time due to abuse or neglect. By not documenting these changes, signs of abuse or neglect can be harder to identify. For example, bedsores are often a telltale sign of nursing home negligence. One way to cover that up is by not recording the condition in the resident's medical record.
Again, evidence plays a critical role in proving nursing home abuse or neglect, but without a thorough investigation, some nursing homes and assisted living facilities get away with it.
If you suspect your loved one is being abused or neglected in an Alabama nursing home, watch out for these warning signs:
- Unexplained injuries or illnesses.
- Sudden, unexplained change in medical condition.
- Unexplained bruises or injuries, including bedsores.
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Changes in mood, including depression or unexplained crying.
- Serious infections, including sepsis and urinary tract infections (UTIs).
- Visiting hours are restricted by the nursing home without warning.
Nobody knows your loved one better than you, so if something doesn’t seem right, take action fast. Be sure to call local law enforcement right away if you believe your loved one is in immediate danger. Otherwise, you should express your concerns to facility management so there is an official record. If necessary, you may make a report with the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Review your rights. Talk to a nursing home negligence attorney today.
Keep in mind that even if your complaint is being investigated by the Alabama Department of Public Health or another local, state, or federal agency, having a lawyer on your side to look out for your family's best interests is still important.
Your attorney can conduct an independent investigation into what happened, preserve evidence, and demand accountability for what happened to your loved one.
At Shuttlesworth Law Firm LLC, we can fight for the justice and financial compensation your family deserves.