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Protect Loved Ones From Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes

At some point, many people will require the services of an assisted living or nursing facility. Whether they are considering this option for themselves, a spouse or a parent, there are many aspects to consider when choosing the right facility. Your assistance needs, location, personal preferences, as well as your finances will all play a part in your decision. But perhaps the most important consideration is to choose a facility that will keep you safe.

Sadly, abuse of the elderly can be a pervasive problem among care facilities. Abuse can include neglect, emotional abuse, theft, sexual and/or physical assault, and may be caused by onsite staff, service providers, or even fellow residents. One common denominator, however, is almost always present when a senior citizen is abused in a residential center. A careless and insufficient amount of oversight of a nursing facility, its staff and residents greatly increases the risk for elder abuse. To help lower the likelihood of abuse, it’s essential that you do your homework when choosing a nursing home.

Ratings/Complaints

Research government rankings of assisted living and nursing facilities. Medicare.gov provides a rating program for nursing facilities that lists “five-star quality ratings, health inspection results, nursing home staff data, quality measures and fire inspection results. “ Your state may also offer data on area facilities, often via the public health department. For instance, Illinois’ website includes a quarterly listing of nursing home violations. Resources such as the Better Business Bureau, elder advocacy groups, and online consumer review websites can be useful tools in finding complaints about a facility. Also, your city or state may have an ombudsman who handles complaints for long-term care facilities.

Staff Quality

When it comes to nursing home’s employees, seek both quality and quantity. Ask about the minimum qualifications for education and experience required among various staff: nurses, personal aides, etc. Also, what background and drug checks do they use for their employees, and how often are they rechecked? A leading risk factor for elder abuse is understaffing in a care facility. Not only are there too few employees to manage the needs of the residents, oversight is lower, and staff is more likely to be careless, neglectful and to vent frustration. They are also less able to protect residents from abuse by another resident. Understaffing also increases discontent and turnover among staff, which are additional risk factors for abuse. Always look for a facility with a high ratio of staff to residents and a low ratio of staff turnover.

Safety Procedures

All assisted living facilities should have a system of checks and balances to ensure their residents’ health and happiness. For instance, does staff check for injuries, and what is their procedure for reporting/investigating such things? How stringent is supervisor or third-party oversight? Is there an onsite patient advocate? What kind of safety equipment is available: security on exterior and interior doors, monitoring equipment like cameras? How are medications watched to prevent overmedicating or theft? Also, sadly many times abuse occurs between residents. Ask about the facilities policy for handling violent or aggressive patients and if they accept patients with a history of such problems.

Personal Oversight

Finally, one of the best ways to ensure a loved one’s safety at a nursing facility is to visit them regularly. The best advocate is a friend or family member, as too often a resident will not report problems themselves for fear of reprisal. Look for signs of abuse and/or neglect, such as bruises, injuries, weight loss, depression or personality changes, as well as missing possessions or finances. If the resident is in immediate danger, call 911. Otherwise, report suspected abuse to your state’s department of aging or adult protective services. Additionally, contact an Illinois personal injury attorney who can help you decide whether to pursue legal action against the facility.

About the Author: Brooke Haley is a Marketing Associate at Millon & Peskin, Chicago workers compensation attorney that practice in the areas of Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury. Millon & Peskin is a General Civil Litigation Practice with the goal of representing the interests of injured workers, throughout all applicable Courts in the State of Illinois. For more information about Illinois workers compensation lawyer,please visit www.millonpeskin.com.

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