It is every family’s worst nightmare. An aging loved one, who they thought was being well cared-for in a nursing home, was actually being neglected, or worse – physically or sexually abused. Family members come to the horrifying realization that the facility they entrusted to look after their loved one (as they enter the sunset of their lives) has betrayed that trust.
Tragically, this scenario is played out far more often than most people want to believe. A CNN investigation from 2017 found that more than 1,000 nursing homes in the United States were cited for mishandling suspected cases of sexual abuse between the three-year period from 2013 to 2016. And approximately 10% of these facilities were cited multiple times during this time period.
As bad as this sounds, the CNN investigation vastly understates the problem. Sexual abuse is the most egregious example of nursing home abuse, but countless other facility residents are physically abused (e.g., hitting, punching, pushing, kicking, etc.). And these are just the incidents of deliberate abuse. There are also numerous instances in which nursing home residents have their basic needs neglected, whether deliberately or because of factors such as the facility being understaffed.
Finding out about the incidents of nursing home abuse is another major challenge. Residents are very reluctant to report abuse for a number of reasons. Among the primary reasons is that they depend on their caregiver for all of their daily needs, so if they reported the abuse and they were not believed, they fear retribution from their abuser. How bad is the problem of under-reporting nursing home neglect and abuse? One study estimated that only about one out of every 14 such cases is ever reported.
So, should you be concerned about the potential for neglect or abuse if you have an elderly loved one in a South Carolina nursing home? Absolutely.
There are just under 200 nursing homes in the Palmetto State, and only about one out of every five of them has a five-star rating. In addition, reports of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation in South Carolina have risen by approximately 25% over the past two decades.
How to Protect your Loved Ones from Nursing Home Abuse
If you have an aging family member living in a nursing facility, it is important to take proactive steps to make sure they are protected from any kind of abuse, and to ensure that they are not living in substandard conditions. Here are some ways to accomplish this:
Make Frequent Visits to the Facility
A nursing home resident who has very few visitors and only receives visits every now and then is far more vulnerable to abuse and neglect. One of the best ways to reduce the chances of this happening to your loved one is to visit them as often as you can. If possible, try to set up a schedule with you and other family members to ensure that your loved one receives a visit at least once or twice a week. Also, be sure to visit at various times of the day and evening. By visiting frequently, you are letting the facility know that you are concerned about the care they are receiving, and that you are paying close attention to what is going on there.
Meet Frequently with Staff
While you are visiting the facility, it is also a great idea to meet with members of the staff, as well as their supervisors and directors, as often as possible. Request regular meetings to discuss, in detail, your expectations and any concerns you have. This not only reinforces the fact that you “mean business”, but it also gives you an opportunity to get to know the people who are looking after your loved one. In addition, if you are not satisfied with the answers you get from the people you talk to at the facility, this is one of the first potential signs that something is not right.
Look for Other Signs of Neglect and Abuse
Always be on the lookout for any signs that your loved one has been neglected or been subjected to abuse. These may include:
- Bruises, cuts, and burns;
- Bed sores;
- Unexplained falls, sprains, and fractures;
- Over medication;
- Malnutrition and dehydration;
- Poor hygiene;
- Substandard living conditions;
- Behavior changes that seem out of character;
- Any other situation that does not seem “right”.
Document as Much as Possible
As soon as you admit your loved one to a nursing facility, you should be documenting everything you have observed there. Keeping a detailed file for this purpose, with a journal and notes from all of your visits. You should also take multiple photos of the facility and your loved one’s room to help substantiate everything you have written down.
If Neglect or Abuse is Occurring, take Immediate Action
If you believe your aging loved one is being neglected or abused, it is important to take action right away to get them out of that situation. If your loved one is in immediate danger, call 911. In addition, you can file a complaint with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) by calling (803) 545-4287. Finally, speak with an experienced nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer to discuss the legal ramifications of what is happening.
Call the Seasoned Personal Injury Attorneys at Peake & Fowler
If you suspect that a loved one is being abused or neglected in a South Carolina nursing facility, get in touch with the attorneys at Peake & Fowler as soon as possible. We will thoroughly review your case and advise you of your legal rights and options.
To schedule your free consultation, call us today at 803-998-2412. You may also message us through our online contact form or stop by our Columbia, SC office in person at your convenience.