Government Reports show that Nursing Home abuse and neglect is Under-reported

Click here to read the government report

It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the health care industry that abuse and neglect in nursing homes is underreported, explains nursing home attorney Jeffrey J. Downey. The government lacks adequate resources to investigate abuse claims, especially when they involved patient neglect, which can be subject to interpretation, explains Downey. This past month, an initial report from the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general’s office confirmed this reality.

The report identified 134 Medicare beneficiaries whose injuries may have been the result of potential abuse or neglect that occurred from January 1, 2015, through December 31, 2016 in 33 different States. This audit report produced by the IG should be viewed as preliminary, as the complete audit report expected in the future, which will likely expand on the problem confronting the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

For instance, it is only since June 2017 that CMS has been working with the Office of the Secretary at HHS to received enforcement authority.

When one is dealing with a family member who is in a nursing home where there is little accountability among its staff there is often confusion about whether an adverse result constitutes neglect or simply a decline in the resident’s condition. Significant pressure wounds are often a sign of poor patient care, explains Downey, but sometimes responsible parties are not even informed of the development of a bed sore or decubitus ulcer. That type of failure needs to get reported to the appropriate licensing authority.

Falls that cause fracture injuries are also a frequent and usually preventable outcome in a skilled care facility. Nursing homes are required to assess a patient’s fall risk and put in place a comprehensive plan of care to prevent falls, which can include bed alarms, patient observation, fall alarms, safety chairs and other devices. Hip fractures can have devastating effects on a patient’s independence and general health. If a family is told that a patient has a hip fracture but the nursing home doesn’t explain how that injury occurred, that issue needs to be investigated.

When confronted with neglect or abuse, the family and/or patient should report the conduct to the appropriate licensing agency. While treating health care providers are also mandatory reporters of neglect and abuse, most providers in the nursing home do not report such outcomes directly, relying instead on the facility to notify the licensing agency. This is part of the reason that there is under-reporting, explains Downey, who practices in Virginia, the District of Columbia and Maryland.

For reporting neglect or abuse, use these websites for links to the necessary forms.

Virginia – http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/licensure-and-certification/
Maryland – https://health.maryland.gov/ohcq/LTC/Pages/home.aspx
District of Columbia – https://doh.dc.gov/node/991552

I have worked for nearly three decades defending patients and their families who have suffered abuse and neglect from nursing home, and a major step in fighting that abuse is to contact experienced counsel. Feel free to call me, Jeffrey Downey, to discuss your issue without legal obligation and visit our website at www.jeffdowney.com. Our address is The Law Office of Jeff Downey; 8270 Greensboro Drive, Suite 810, McLean, VA 22102 or jdowney@jeffdowney.com. (703) 564-7318