Preventing abuse of people with paralysis in long-term care facilities

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on October 09, 2019 # Health, Advocacy and Policy

Being informed on what is and what is not acceptable care in a long-term care (LTC) facility is essential in preventing potential abuse or neglect of vulnerable, disabled or elderly adults. While procedures and services may vary between facilities, residents and family members must understand what an ideal environment should look like and how to keep everyone accountable for their responsibilities.

Similar to identifying evidence of abuse, there are indicators that help to recognize the signs that a facility is providing quality care. These include a clean and well-kept facility that smells fresh and is a safe and comfortable temperature. Residents’ requests for assistance through their call lights are responded to promptly and kindly. Patients are well groomed, clean, relaxed, alert, happy, and are not physically restrained. Their food looks and smells appetizing and follows their personal diet plan. Staff members encourage residents to participate in their care along with their daily living decisions and routine. Residents are involved in meaningful and recreational activities, in both individual and group settings. It’s also important that the community is friendly, engages, with residents and communicates respectfully.

In addition to witnessing behavior and the overall environment, certain management factors contribute to the satisfaction of residents and family members. Results of a joint study of 1,000 long-term care facilities found that those with the highest approval ratings had more nurses and qualified staff members, were smaller facilities but with higher occupancy rates and were not owned by for-profit companies or chains. The administration and policies within a facility must also be effective and sympathetic to support both the employees’ and residents’ needs. To find care standards, ratings and details about Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing homes and to compare facilities in your area, click here.

You must be attentive and involved in the day-to-day procedures to ensure residents are receiving the care they need and deserve in long-term care facilities. As such, the following advocacy tips outline ways patients and family members can prevent any mistreatment.

Discuss any and all concerns with the administrator. During this time, make it a point to share your observations – both good and bad – so that you can find a resolution goal. Stay on top of state survey reports to determine if the facility has been cited for similar issues in the past. If the reports aren’t posted in a location accessible to residents and guests, they should be made available upon your request. Get involved in the resident or family council for your facility so you may work together, support new members and voice concerns about improvements or quality care. If one doesn’t exist, create one! This is particularly helpful when trying to meet other residents, especially those without family or visitors.

Become familiar with residents’ rights as well as federal and state facility care requirements and share information with other patients and their families. Like any place of business, keep the lines of communication open with staff members and go out of your way to compliment excellent care. This can help to form bonds and create meaningful relationships.

Take time to learn about the Long-Term Care Ombudsman (LTCO) Program and get to know your local ombudsman or advocate. They are on your side to educate you on acceptable care practices, residents’ rights and resolve any complaints. Lastly, continue to visit the patient often and at various times throughout the day. This way you can become familiar with multiple care providers and get a deeper understanding of the resident’s schedule and potential issues.

If you become dissatisfied with the care you are receiving, seek additional help. There are multiple agencies, organizations and resources available to ensure you or your loved one is not the victim of abuse, neglect or exploitation. Consider visiting the following websites to obtain more information.


The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.