The decision to place a loved one in a nursing home is never easy. However, depending on a parent’s or grandparent’s illness, injury, or severity of their condition, a nursing home is often the safest place for them to be. Residential nursing home facilities provide services (including round-the-clock care) that Pennsylvania families are simply not equipped to handle in their homes.
Learning that your loved one was harmed in the one place that was supposed to truly care for them is a devastating experience. If you are ready to move forward with legal action on behalf of your family member, Stapp Law, LLC can help you garner a better understanding of how nursing home abuse is investigated in the state of Pennsylvania.
How To Report Pennsylvania Nursing Home Abuse
You have several options for reporting suspected nursing home abuse. Stapp Law, LLC would like to stress that you do not need proof of abuse to make a report. We often find that people’s suspicions and gut feelings concerning the mistreatment of a loved one are correct, so it is always better to err on the side of caution and report any questionable activity.
To file a complaint, you may:
- Call the Pennsylvania Department of Aging at its 24-hour hotline, 1-800-490-8508
- Call the Nursing Home Complaint Hotline at 1-800-254-5164
- Fill out an online complaint form
- Contact the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program
You may also bring your concerns of abuse or neglect directly to the nursing home itself. In many situations, the facility may be able to directly deal with these allegations by removing problematic staff members. However, we understand that simply firing an abusive employee will not rectify the damages your loved one has suffered. We also realize that reporting abuse to the nursing home may raise fears of retaliation.
For these reasons, we recommend that you also speak with an experienced attorney about any suspicions of abuse in your loved one’s nursing home.
How Nursing Home Abuse Is Investigated
A complaint of nursing home abuse must be reviewed by trained and qualified staff, who will decide how it should be handled. If an investigation is deemed necessary, it must begin within 48 hours of receipt of the complaint.
A nursing home abuse investigation does not always involve a visit to the facility itself, but when it does, the visit is a surprise and staff are not given prior warning. Officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) may perform any of the following actions when investigating abuse claims:
- Speak with you, your loved one, and other residents of the nursing home facility
- Review medical records
- Inspect the facility
- Speak with staff members
- Observe staff members as they treat, care for, and interact with residents
Upon conclusion of the investigation, you will receive a letter detailing the DOH’s determination. This letter should also include contact information for you to reach out to the DOH should you have any concerns regarding the outcome of the investigation.
What Happens When the Investigation Is Over
If the investigation from the DOH determines that there is a problem, the nursing home is then granted 10 days to identify strategies to address the problem, which it must outline in a plan of correction. The nursing home must then provide its plan of correction to the DOH for approval. Upon approval, the nursing home is obligated to abide by the plan and make changes to the facility, staffing, and protocols as called for.
Officials from the DOH will continue to make unannounced visits to monitor the nursing home’s progress on the plan of correction. If the facility fails to adhere to the plan, the DOH will leverage a $500 fine per day until the problem is corrected.
How To Identify Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse falls into four distinct categories: physical, verbal/emotional, sexual, and financial. Signs of nursing home abuse may be overt or subtle depending on a variety of factors, including the type of abuse a person is suffering, their mental or physical state, and more.
While you know your loved one best and will be able to more easily identify concerning behaviors, we generally recommend that families watch for the following signs of nursing home abuse:
- Unexplained bruises, welts, or lacerations
- Unexplained broken bones or other injuries
- A sudden increase in the number of medications they are taking
- A sudden and unexplained refusal to talk
- Displays of fearful behavior
- Withdrawing from social activities
Never second guess yourself if you suspect that your loved one is being abused or mistreated in their nursing home. Your complaint may help save them from living their final years in an environment filled with abuse and neglect.
Helping Your Loved One Take Legal Action
Nursing home abuse victims and their families have the right to take legal action against a nursing home facility where abuse, neglect, or mistreatment occurred. The victim may file on their own, or their loved ones may file a claim on their behalf.
A nursing home abuse claim is typically used to secure compensation on behalf of the victim. This compensation may be used to:
- Facilitate a move to a new, safe facility
- Pay for treatments and medications related to their abuse
- Address any psychological distress they suffered
The support of family members is often a vital component to the success of these types of cases.
Taking a Stand Against Nursing Home Abuse
Stapp Law, LLC is a staunch advocate for nursing home abuse victims and their families. We believe that holding these facilities accountable for their actions is the only way to prevent further harm from occurring to other residents in the future. While we know the challenges that accompany a nursing home abuse claim can be daunting, we never let that get in the way of securing compensation and a sense of justice on behalf of our clients.
Nursing home abuse can be deadly, so do not delay—contact our Williamsport, PA law office to schedule your free consultation today.