you have chosen what seems like a good nursing
home for your loved one, there are steps you should
take to protect them from any neglect or abuse
in nursing homes. For more specific information
on how to choose a good nursing home, click
You should be aware of what rights exist for a
resident inside a nursing home. (For a general
guideline, see our section entitled, "Resident
Rights.") Upon admission to a nursing
home, a copy of Federal and State rules and regulations
should be provided. Obtain a state copy of rights
and regulations as they apply to nursing homes
in your state that can be obtained from the state
department of health. You should be aware of who
the nursing home advocate or ombudsman is and
how to contact them.
the Nursing Home Unannounced
One of the best ways to see how elders live inside
a nursing home is to visit unannounced. It should
never be required that you only visit during certain
hours. If so, speak with your ombudsman to find
out the regulations regarding this aspect of resident
life. Visit during different times of the day
when other members of the staff will be taking
care of your loved one. Not only does this ensure
that you meet and get to know the different individuals
on the nursing home staff, but it can allow for
better treatment of your loved one. If the staff
thinks you may show up at any moment, they are
more likely to provide better treatment.
Inspect the physical conditions in which your
loved one is living. Many times, care plans are
only followed during state inspections. Test out
things like the call light to make sure it is
accessible and is answered in an appropriate manner.
Spend some time to see how the staff cares for
the residents. Even if it seems like this is intrusive
during certain times, surely your presence is
less intrusive than that of a staff member. As
a legal guardian, this is your right and duty.
As a legal guardian, you have the right to read
the chart of the nursing home resident. This is
important to safeguarding the relative safety
and progress of an elder person. If a staff member
tells you this is not allowed, you should be wary.
Speak with your ombudsman about the rules regarding
Reading the chart cannot hurt and will probably
improve the quality of care the resident receives.
If the staff knows you are observing the care
they adminster they are more likely to provide
adequate treatment. They will not want to be responsible
for a problem or complication that arises.
Ask questions of the staff if the chart is difficult
to read or contains information that is incomprehensible.
If something appears suspicious, make a copy of
the medical record right away (this is the right
of a legal guardians upon request). Do not expect
mistakes on the chart to be blatant (i.e. phrases
such as "incident report filed" or "serious
medical error"). If there is a large amount
of documentation, vital signs without an accompanying
illness or condition and/or monitoring, yet the
nursing home never informed you of an incident,
this should be warning sign.
Documentation translates to accountability. The
only way to have any proof
for an elder abuse case is through medical
records and documented or written
proof of incidents. If they happened, but
were never documented, they hold little or no
sway in a court of law. Any and all problems should
be documented and dated and, if possible, signed
by the nursing home staff or administrator with
whom you discussed the problem. Keep a copy for
yourself and send the other to your local ombudsmen
or nursing home advocate. This insures that the
nursing home knows that an outside source is aware
of an alleged problem. By documenting your problems,
you create a paper trail that your attorney can
use to substantiate a claim for nursing home abuse.
Another reason for the importance of this is that
nursing homes chart and follow their patients
to insure that no lawsuits are brought against
them. If they have committed an act
of abuse, they can cover it up very well.
It is only through proper documentation that a
court will have enough evidence to hear your case.
Start the documentation process as early as possible.
Some powerful tools for your case include photographs
or videotape of your loved one, especially if
they are able to describe what happened and who
abused them. Unfortunately, certain types of abuse
can be life threatening and can take the life
of an elder American before their case comes to
a Family Council
Starting a family council can be an excellent
way to voice concerns
in an open forum. The larger the group, the
greater the potential that the nursing home
will pay attention to any concerns that are
raised. Remember, these are all potential
witnesses that can corroborate concerns or
It is also much easier to voice concerns when
it isn't only you or your loved one up against
the entire nursing home. The nursing home
will select an administrator to respond to
the council's concerns.
Keep a copy of the minutes from the council
meetings and what concerns you discuss. Send
a copy to the ombudsman in order to insure
that the administration responds to your concerns.
Refer to the official Resident Rights and
state rules and regulations for more information
on how to start and maintain a Family Council.
If the safety and health of your loved one is in jeopardy, and you feel that they have suffered some form of nursing home abuse or neglect, contact us to speak with an attorney.