If you believe that your loved one has been the victim of neglect or abuse, you should take action. Here, you can find 10 steps that you can take in order to confirm abuse and find the help your loved one needs.
Talk to Your Loved One
Admitting abuse can seem extremely difficult for your loved one. In some cases, they might inform you of the abuse as soon as it takes place. But in other cases, your loved one might keep quiet about the abuse. If this is the case, it’s up to you to notice it and discuss it with your loved one. Before you file a complaint or take other actions, you should confirm that abuse took place.
Go somewhere private to talk and discuss the warning signs that you have noticed with your loved one. Remember to treat them gently, as discussing this issue could feel difficult for them. Make sure to make it clear that the abuse didn’t happen because of anything your loved one did. Your loved one might not even know that they experienced abuse. This is especially the case for neglect, emotional abuse, or financial abuse. This is because these are not always clear-cut forms of abuse. Ask your loved one if they have been abused, discriminated against, or taken advantage of in any way.
If you can confirm the abuse, you can move forward with finding your loved one help. Make sure to listen to what your loved one says and how they feel about the situation. In this situation, you should respect your loved one’s wishes. But, you also need to protect them. Different people wish to deal with abuse in different ways.
Make sure to truly listen to what your loved one wants and read between the lines. Clear communication will allow you to understand how you should move forward.
File a Written Complaint
Each nursing home will have different procedures for dealing with neglect or abuse. You should notify the nursing home of the abuse as soon as you can confirm it. Then you can begin the necessary processes with the nursing home. Notifying the nursing home as soon as possible will make the process that the home has to go through faster. This will bring you and your family one step closer to putting this experience behind you.
Contact the Authorities
There are many entities that you should consider contacting to report neglect or abuse. A few of the most popular options are:
- The police.
- The Center For Medicare or Medicaid.
- Adult Protective Services.
- Your state’s ombudsman.
- A lawyer.
Neglect and abuse are crimes. This means that the police should be informed of such actions. You should call the police as soon as you learn of abuse. This happens so that the perpetrators can get arrested and won’t harm other people.
You can also contact adult protective services for help. These services can help at risk adults prevent and recover from abuse.
Medicare and Medicaid
If your loved one has Medicare or Medicaid, contact the Center for Medicare or the Center for Medicaid for help. Those with Medicare and Medicaid enjoy certain rights and privileges. If any of their rights get violated, one of these services can help.
Each state has an ombudsman. This is a person that investigates issues in nursing homes to protect all residents. The ombudsman is in charge of making changes at the local, state, and even national level. They make sure that nursing homes are safe and residents are treated correctly. You can contact your local ombudsman and they can investigate the situation. You can call 1-800-677-1116 to get the number of your local ombudsman.
If you would like to press charges against the perpetrator, it is in your best interest to hire a lawyer. A lawyer can walk you through the process of filing a lawsuit, if this is the direction that you want to go in. A lawyer can also prepare you for the possibility of a criminal case if the abuser faces a trial.
Get Your Loved One Removed
Once neglect and abuse are identified, protect your loved one from any future incidents. You should do this by removing your loved one from the nursing home where they have been abused. If getting your loved one out of the home is not an option or will take time, protect them with these steps:
- Discuss the situation with the director of operations.
- Have your loved one moved to another wing of the facility.
- Make sure that your loved one does not have any contact with the perpetrator(s).
- Get a restraining order against the abuser(s).
- Visit frequently to make sure that your loved one isn’t abused again.
Make sure that the police are aware of the situation.
Seek Emotional Help
As a victim of neglect and abuse, your loved one is traumatized. They need a way to work through the various emotions that they are feeling. These emotions includes fear, anger, frustration, depression, etc. As soon as possible, you should seek emotional help so that your loved one can deal with these emotions. They need to confront what happened and move on.
Seeing a therapist is a good way to work through this experience in a healthy and positive way. If your loved one is opposed to seeing a therapist, contact the Office on Aging or a doctor for alternative treatment. Be sure to monitor your loved one’s behavior at this difficult time and do what you can to help them through it.
Write Everything Down
You should help your loved one make a record of everything that happened to them. This can be a painful experience for your family. But, your loved one should write down what happened as soon as possible. This information will help the police and it will come in handy if you eventually decide to pursue a civil case.
If you would like help with this process, you can ask for the help of a police officer. They will know what kind of information that your loved one needs to write down. A good start when trying to recount the neglect or abuse is to ask your loved one the following questions:
- When did the abuse begin?
- How long did the abuse last (was it one incident or many incidents?).
- Can you describe the abuse in as much detail as possible?
- Can you describe your injuries in as much detail as possible?
- Did you notice any events or actions that triggered the abuse?
- Do you know of other residents that were also abused?
- Were you abused by one person or more than one person?
- Did you seek help for the abuse, but found that you got ignored?
- Did you tell anyone about the abuse?
- Who abused you?
Gathering this information will help you determine the extent of the abuse. You can also determine the type of abuse, who is responsible, and more. Another reason to write down everything that happened is to make a record of it for future purposes.
Visit a Doctor
Contacting a doctor in the event of abuse is always in your best interest. No matter what type of abuse, a doctor can identify and confirm your loved one’s claims. In most cases, a doctor will want to interview and examine your loved one for signs of abuse. Having a doctor confirm the abuse can assist the police in building a case. It can also be used should you and your family decide to file a lawsuit against the nursing home or the staff members who caused abuse.
Writing down what happened and visiting a doctor are two great first steps in gathering evidence. But, there are other ways to gather evidence that you should consider. The more evidence, the more you can help both the police and your family. A few other common ways to gather evidence include:
- Taking photographs.
- Taking statements from witnesses and eyewitnesses.
- Establishing a history of abuse.
- Keeping a paper trail.
If your loved one is a victim of neglect or physical abuse, there will be physical signs of this abuse. This might mean bruises, broken bones, cuts, poor grooming, etc. Be sure to take pictures of these injuries to document the abuse. This will provide a physical example of what took place.
If anyone witnessed the neglect or abuse, you should try to get a statement from those people. This can confirm that neglect or abuse took place. Some examples include statements from your loved one, a roommate, another staff member, etc.
Oftentimes when abuse takes place, there have been similar incidents that have occurred already. Research the abusers’ criminal histories to see if they have been accused of abuse in the past. Also try to learn about specific complaints made to the home about these staff members. This can show a history of abuse.
You should keep track of any expenses that your loved one must pay related to the neglect or abuse. For example, keep a paper trail of:
- Bills for doctor’s visits.
- Hospital bills.
- Medication bills.
- Surgery bills.
Any expenses related to the abuse should become documented.
Hire a Lawyer
You might be wondering if your loved one needs a lawyer in this situation. In most cases, the answer is yes. Hiring a lawyer can help your loved one understand the criminal process related to abuse. They can also learn what they need to do during this process. To make sure that your loved one’s rights remain protected, seek legal representation. A lawyer can also answer questions, handle paperwork, and make this process as easy as possible.
File a Lawsuit
As the victim of abuse, your loved one can bring a civil case against his or her abuser(s). One benefit of filing a lawsuit is being compensated for pain and suffering. But, filing a lawsuit is not something that every victim of abuse wants to do. Your loved one might decide that the criminal charges against the abuser is enough. They might just want to to put this experience in the past. You should discuss these options with your loved one and with a lawyer. Together, you can determine the best course of action for your situation.