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Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

If your loved one is a resident in a nursing home, how do you make sure that he or she is being treated properly? What do you look for on your visits? What are some common types of abuse and neglect?

Signs of Abuse

Visible injuries are, of course, the easiest to spot. Examples are broken bones, cuts, scars, and bed sores (pressure ulcers). If you see signs of these types of injuries, there are things you can do to uncover what occurred.

Ask the resident what happened, but don't stop there. The resident may be hesitant to tell you the truth because he or she is embarrassed. Possibly they have been intimidated into not telling the truth. You could also ask the attending nurse and assistant about the injury, see what other members of the staff know, question the attending physician and also inspect the resident's medical records

Signs of Neglect

Injuries resulting from neglect are often more subtle and difficult to detect. These include inadequate nutrition and cleanliness, failure to supply adequate bathing supplies such as shampoo and soap, failure to properly move and position the resident, failure to properly assist the resident who needs help bathing, eating, walking, failure to properly supervise dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, and verbal abuse.

Your loved one may also be reluctant to talk about these issues, therefore you should keep your eyes and ears open for signs of neglect. Make sure the bathroom is clean, check for odors in the bed and on your loved one's clothing, check the condition of the hair and nails to make sure they are clean. Pay attention to how your loved one reacts to you. For example, do they seem to be depressed, confused, or excessively angry? Has there been an unexplained weight loss or other dramatic changes in appearance? These signs are not definite indications of abuse, but they should cause you to investigate the situation.

Nursing Home Reform Act

In an effort to reform nursing home practices and procedures and to set standards for the care rendered to residents Congress passed the Nursing Home Reform Act in 1987. (the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987, or OBRA 1987).

If you are a resident or have a loved one in a nursing home, it is important to be familiar with the rights provided by the Nursing Home Reform Act. The law requires nursing homes to promote and protect the rights of each resident and places a strong emphasis on individual dignity and self-determination.

Nursing home residents' rights:

  • Residents have the right to be fully informed, of services and their charges; the rules and regulations of the nursing home; contact information for the State Ombudsman, State licensure office, and other advocacy groups; and state survey reports of the nursing home along with the home's plans for corrections. Residents have the right to be communicated to daily in their language and provided assistance for sensory impairments.
  • Residents have the right to participate in their own care, which includes both receiving adequate and appropriate care and also the right to refuse that care. They have the right to be involved in the planning of their care, should be informed of any changes in treatment or condition, and the right to review their medical records.
  • Residents have the right to make independent choices. This includes making independent decisions on clothing and spending free time, choosing their own activities inside and outside the nursing home, participating in a resident council, and selecting their own physician. The nursing home must make reasonable accommodations of a resident's needs and preferences.
  • Residents have the right to privacy and confidentiality, including private and unrestricted communication with persons of their choice, private treatment and care of personal needs, and confidentiality regarding medical, personal, and financial affairs.
  • Residents have the right to dignity, respect, and freedom. Residents have the right to be treated with consideration, respect and dignity, to be free from abuse, both mental and physical, corporal punishment, involuntary seclusion, and physical and chemical restraints. Residents have the right to self-determination.
  • Residents have the right to security of possessions. This includes managing their own financial affairs and not being charged for services covered by Medicare and Medicaid. Residents have the right to file a complaint if the nursing home is managing their financial affairs in an abusive, neglectful, or inappropriate way.
  • Residents have rights during transfers and discharges, including the right to a 30-day notice and a safe transfer or discharge with sufficient preparation by the nursing home. Residents also have a right to remain in the nursing facility unless the transfer or discharge is deemed necessary to meet the resident's welfare, required to protect other residents and staff, or a facility charge has not been provided after reasonable notice.
  • Residents have the right to complain without fear of reprisal and the right to prompt efforts by the nursing home to resolve grievances.
  • A resident has the right to visits. A resident has the right to visits from their personal physician, representatives from the health department and ombudsman programs, and their relatives. Residents also have the right to reasonable visits by organizations or individuals providing health, social, legal, or other services.

What to do if you suspect abuse or neglect:
  • Contact the Nursing Home Administrator and tell them your concerns.
  • Contact the long term care ombudsman for Utah that regulates nursing homes and file a complaint.
  • Contact The Faerber Law Firm for a free consultation with a Salt Lake City area nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer. Your loved one may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, as well as damages for the pain, suffering, disability, and other damages they have suffered.