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Over one in four cases of nursing home abuse goes unreported

Stories of nursing home abuse are horrible, but everyone hopes that it is not common. People across New York State place their trust in nursing homes, having faith that their aging parents will be safe. New findings show that nursing home abuse may be worse than we think.

The Department of Health and Human Services issued alarming findings from a number of cases around the nation. They found that over one-fourth of cases of nursing home abuse go unreported. With over 1 million people living in U.S. nursing homes, the issue of abuse is a major national concern.

The report was issued from the Health and Human Services inspector general’s office as an “early alert.” This audit is part of an ongoing investigation. More incidents are expected to be uncovered.

Incidents were not reported to the police

Investigators from the inspector general’s office searched through Medicare billing records for clear signs of abuse of nursing home residents. Investigators matched the cases to hospital emergency room and nursing home records. 134 cases of emergency room records indicated possible neglect, physical or sexual abuse from 2015 to 2016.

In 28 percent of those cases investigators could not find evidence that the incident has been reported to local law enforcement. The Health and Human Services inspector general’s office is faulting Medicare for failing to enforce federal law.

It is federal law that nursing homes must promptly report potential abuse if there is serious injury. In addition to federal law, New York State requires nursing home workers to immediately report potential abuse to the administrator of the facility, the New York State Department of Health and at least one local law enforcement agency. Even with these laws in place, a number of potential abuse incidents go unreported.

Evidence is lost

In many of these cases nursing home personnel found evidence of abuse among their residents. They failed to report the abuse to the appropriate agencies. Instead, the resident’s family members found evidence of abuse, such as bruising or welts. Otherwise, families were contacted by nursing home personnel days later. Only then the police were notified by the family, which prompted an investigation.

Failure to immediately report signs of abuse will cause important evidence to be lost, significantly hurting the investigation. Lost evidence can also damage the family’s case if they decide to pursue compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. Anyone with loved ones in nursing homes should regularly check on them and keep an eye open for signs of abuse. Attentive family members can help deter the neglect and abuse of loved ones.

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