Pennsylvania Nursing Home Resident Rights
Elders in Assisted Living Have the Right to "No Abuse"
Whether or not to move elderly relatives into a nursing home or other long-term care facility is an aging related issue that is never an easy decision. And with the increase in news accounts and legal cases involving elder abuse by professional caregivers, the thought of something bad happening to a senior can be truly terrifying.
The statistics paint a grim picture. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one in ten seniors report emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or potential neglect annually. Additionally, many cases go unreported because the victim may be afraid to say anything from fear or embarrassment.
Fortunately, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has strict laws that protect the elderly from abuse by the people who have been entrusted to care for them. Elder abuse comes in many forms, and if you suspect that your loved one is a victim, you should act immediately to protect them and get them the help they need.
What You Need to Look for in a Nursing Home
Prior to committing to a particular facility to look after your relative or loved one, it is necessary to research which facilities meet adequate standards of care. The following questions are important to ask:
- What is the ratio of staff to residents?
- How many medical staff are on duty?
- How many beds are there?
- What are the visiting hours?
- What security measures have been taken to protect residents, including those with diminished faculties?
It is also critical to look at any reports or documentation the facility has with regards to state surveys or monitoring from a state agency or other organization that offers insight into its safety record. And if your relative has any specific health issues that must be accounted for, such as dementia, you need to be sure that the facility has experience handling them.
Signs of Abuse or Neglect
Sadly, no amount of preparation can completely protect your parent or relative from mistreatment. Elder abuse can take many forms, including physical, emotional, sexual, or financial. Ideally, you’ll be able to recognize signs of abuse early and immediately put a stop to it before any lasting harm is done.
On your regular visits to your relative, be aware of the following indicators that something may be wrong:
- Weight loss
- Bruises or signs of physical injury
- Repetitive injuries
- Loss of sleep
- Sudden changes in behavior or mood
- Unexpected or unexplained financial transactions
- Withdrawal or extended silences
- Torn or bloody clothes
- Inadequate or faulty medical care
What to Do If You Suspect Abuse
The Pennsylvania Department of Aging is trained to handle elder abuse cases and they should be contacted immediately when you suspect something may be wrong. Their 24-hour hotline is (800) 490-8505. Not only can they help protect your relative, but they can also document the abuse, which will be important for any future litigation against the facility and its staff.
Also, a critical component of elder abuse law in Pennsylvania is that reporting the abuse is mandatory. If a facility or an employee who has witnessed abuse does not report it, they can be found in violation of the law.
If you have discovered that your loved has been abused or neglected by someone at his or her care facility, the negligent staff members can and should be held responsible. Victims and their families may be entitled to financial compensation for damages suffered as the result of avoidable hospitalization, injuries, emotional suffering, or financial burdens caused by medical bills or a move to a new facility.
If you or someone you care about has been the victim of elder abuse, the legal team at the Law Offices of Kreisher & Gregorowicz can help. Allow us to put our four generations of combined legal experience to work for you. Call (570) 784-5211 today to schedule a free and comprehensive consultation with a Columbia County elder law attorney.
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- Elder Abuse - National Institute on Aging