Abuse is the No. 1 issue no one wants to think about—and even fewer want to talk about—when it comes to vulnerable seniors in nursing homes. But an alert released in August, 2017, by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (HHS OIG) brought a disturbing issue to light: too often, serious nursing home abuse is not reported to police even though federal law requires such reporting within two hours of when the incident took place. (The deadline is 24 hours for a less-serious case of abuse.) The federal law dictating the requirements for reporting nursing home abuse was bolstered in 2011—and yet we still see unprincipled nursing home management failing to inform police when a resident is harmed.
More Seniors in Nursing Homes
We have more seniors in nursing homes because we have more seniors, period, than at any other time in our history. The enormous number of baby boomers—those born between 1946 and 1963—plus the fact that we are living much longer lifespans mean that we have a lot of elderly folks in the United States. And, the longer you live, the likelier it is that you will end up in a nursing home for some amount of time. It’s estimated that 40 percent of seniors spend time in a nursing home before they die. As of 2016, we have approximately 46 million people 65 years old and over. It’s estimated we could see a 75 percent increase in the number of seniors needing nursing home care, from 1.3 million in 2010 to 2.3 million by 2030.
What Did the HHS OIG Alert Say?
Of the 134 persons listed in the alert who suffered some form of nursing home abuse from January 1, 2015, through December 31, 2016, more than 1 in 4 cases were not reported to the police at all, even though 129 of the 134 suffered abuse severe enough to require a trip to the emergency room. Five of the abused persons were admitted to the hospital from the ER. Nearly all of the abuse cases were sexual in nature, including 80 alleged cases of rape.
The alert also stated that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have fallen down on the job. The CMS did not sufficiently enforce the requirement to report abuse to the police. The failure to report abuse is supposed to be punishable by fines up to $300,000. The alert recommended that CMS follow in the footsteps of the HHS OIG investigators, cross-referencing nursing home Medicare claims with emergency room claims. In that way, they could see whether an individual Medicare patient filed claims for both nursing home and ER care. It would also enable investigators to see whether the ER diagnosis involved sexual abuse.
In all, the abuse was spread over 33 states. The top four states in terms of number of abuse cases were:
- Illinois: 17 cases
- Michigan: 13 cases
- Texas: 9 cases
- California: 8 cases.
One reported case was heartbreaking. The woman suffered deep bruising and other injuries because of her sexual assault and required an ER visit. Yet not only did the nursing home fail to report the abuse to the police, they eradicated evidence. Curtis Roy, an assistant regional inspector general in the Department of Health and Human Services, noted that, “They cleaned off the victim. In doing so, they destroyed all of the evidence that law enforcement could have used as part of an investigation into this crime.”
But it didn’t stop there. The nursing home did not inform the family of the assault and injuries until the following day. After the family notified the police, the nursing home tried again to cover up the crime. Roy commented, “They went so far as to contact the local police department to tell them that they did not need to come out to the facility to conduct an investigation.”
If you have loved ones in a nursing home, keep a sharp eye out for the signs of abuse, and believe them if they tell you someone has been harming them.
Let Down by the Eldercare Industry? Let “The Injury Lawyer” Help You.
When you place a loved one in a nursing home, you are entrusting their well-being and health to a staff that you hope is caring, competent and professional. Unfortunately, many elderly people suffer from various forms of abuse, including harm done by other residents that the staff overlooks or does nothing to prevent. Those in nursing homes can even be evicted without just cause, simply because they are too expensive or sick for the corporation running the nursing home. To resolve certain situations and obtain damages owed, you may need caring and compassionate legal assistance for your parent or other relative.
The law offices of Steven H. Heisler act on behalf of personal injury victims, including those harmed by nursing home injuries. Interested in more information on whether you have a valid nursing home injury or damages claim? Contact Baltimore nursing home abuse lawyer Steven H. Heisler today for a free initial consultation at 1-410-625-4878, or use our online contact form.