Addressing Abuse in Long-Term Care Facilities

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on September 18, 2019 # Health

Reporting any type of suspected or witnessed abuse of a resident who is vulnerable or has a disability in long-term care facilities takes courage, but also attention to detail as there are many parties that must be involved to take action. Though extensive, addressing abuse must be done properly in order to protect long-term care patients and their rights throughout the duration of their care.

According to the Consumer Voice, “all long-term care residents have the right to receive quality, individualized care and to be protected from mistreatment, including abuse and neglect.” Dignity, choice, and self-determination of a long-term care patient’s life and care are components of quality care in a facility. While patients in nursing homes and assisted living facilities have the same rights as individuals in the larger community, they also possess additional federal and state rights for their continued health and safety.

The additional rights granted to long-term care residents must adhere to the requirements of the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law. The law maintains that “all assisted-living facilities provide services and activities to reach the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each resident in accordance with their individual written plan which is signed off by the resident, his/her family, or their legal representative.”

One right that helps to address patient abuse or neglect is the right to be informed. This allows residents to be aware of their required services and related fees, facility rules, a document outlining their rights as well as contact information for their state ombudsman plus survey and certification agencies. Residents also have the right to report accusations of ill-treatment against staff or others without fear of punishment and to expect prompt action to resolve the issues. If an incident occurs, patients should report their complaint to the ombudsman program and file a report with the state survey and certification agency. These rights ensure that long-term care facilities are compliant with care regulations and that all parties are held accountable for their actions.

Long-term care facilities are required to report allegations of abuse, neglect, exploitation, and misappropriation to their state agencies and ombudsman program (specific reporting requirements vary by state). In order to make your case as strong as possible, create a written report detailing the event and all background information. This will help investigators manage the claim quickly. The report must state all people associated with the incident or history of abuse, including the victim, facility name, careworker(s) responsible for the victim’s care as well as the person or people you are filing a complaint about. Clearly and accurately describe what occurred as well as any signs of abuse or neglect. If the victim agrees, provide pictures of bruises, cuts or any other visible marks. Don’t forget to highlight the time, place and date of the reported claim. Once complete, date your report and keep a copy for your records.

When filing your report, you will need to first submit it to the long-term care facility’s administrator, director of nursing and social worker. Next, send it to the state survey and certification agency, which is often in your state’s health department. As with any other crime or claim of abuse, the report must be filed with your local police or state law enforcement agency. Adult protective and/or advocacy services should be notified as well as your long-term care ombudsman representative so they may use the information provided in your report to further investigate your claim and make appropriate care changes. Lastly, it’s advised to provide a copy to any citizen advocacy groups, churches or other community groups that regularly work with the long-term care facility.

After the report is filed, continue to be involved. Do your due diligence to ensure the complaint has been investigated and to obtain the results. Visit the victim and the facility firsthand to see if the abuse or neglect has ended. Follow up with the persons, ombudsman or agencies conducting the investigation and request copies of their reports if the law permits. And finally, check with the appropriate licensing authorities to ensure they are aware of the complaints charged against the employee and facility so appropriate actions are taken.

Knowing the correct information to provide and procedures to follow in addressing claims of abuse in long-term care facilities are key factors to protect at-risk residents and end further misconduct.

Part Three of this blog series will concern preventing abuse of people with disabilities in long-term care facilities.


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