Nursing home abuse is one of the most under-reported crimes in the US and can happen anywhere, at any time. While some of the more serious cases are publicized, many crimes go unreported to either the police or in the media. Victims usually can’t fight back or defend themselves, and requests for help may be ignored completely. But in Charleston, you do have some recourse if you discover it.
Most abuses are:
- Physical abuse
- Emotional/verbal abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Financial exploitation
Any abuse should be reported to the facility administrator, the State of West Virginia, and possibly law enforcement.
Nursing home residents are protected by both federal and state laws. The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 is the federal law establishing a list of an individual’s rights as well as protections for nursing home residents against abuse. (An abridged description of the law is available here.)
West Virginia’s Adult Protective Services provides important information in the event you need help reporting nursing home abuse.
Much like domestic abuse victims, many nursing home abuse victims are afraid to report anything for fear of retribution when everyone is gone for the day. As a visitor, you can get up and leave, but a resident lives there full time, and can’t always help themselves. Residents with cognitive issues like dementia or Alzheimer’s may not realize they’ve been the target of abuse, or may not clearly remember details enough to explain it to you or to law enforcement.
Indications of Abuse In A Nursing Home
Changes in an individual’s living arrangement will nearly always cause some upheaval and confusion. Over time, most people settle in and get used to their new environment. But if you are seeing some of these indicators in your loved one, it might be time to do some investigation.
- Damaged clothing, glasses or frames
- Inability to speak around others, including employees
- Family member never left alone, always in the presence of a facility employee
- Suddenly uninterested in speaking with friends and relatives
- Depression, anxiety and/or sleeplessness without a clear cause
- Abrupt changes in appetite or mood
- Broken bones, skin lacerations or other sudden unexplained injuries
- Rope burns or other indications of restraint
- Welts, bruises, black eyes or other obvious injuries in various stages of healing
- Resident report of being hit, slapped or otherwise abused
Any of these should be reported immediately to Adult Protective Services.
Even if a nursing home resident isn’t showing any of the signs of physical abuse, financial abuse is also a possibility by both employees and family members. Signs to look for include:
- Sudden changes in wills, powers of attorney and other important documents
- New names on signature cards, bank accounts or other financial documents
- Unexplained changes in banking, i.e., large withdrawals or transfers by a non-family member
- Forged signatures
- Missing property
- Overdraft fees and insufficient funds in bank accounts
- New contracts, loans or mortgages
- Unnecessary services
- Relatives who were uninvolved appearing to lay claim to the elder’s property or monies
- Any other new, unusual or questionable legal and/or financial arrangements
The West Virginia Department of Health & Human Services contains a wealth of information with more on Adult Protective Services. A PDF file with a more complete list of signs of abuse and neglect is available here.
Filing A Complaint of Abuse
If you have evidence or have personally witnessed mistreatment of someone in a nursing facility in Charleston, WV, file a complaint with the state immediately. Call West Virginia’s 24/7 Health & Human Resources hotline at 800-352-6513. Take pictures and document all evidence, including injuries. Health & Human Resources Centralized Intake offers additional information on their website, and what data to have on hand when you call.
Anyone can file a complaint of abuse or neglect, but some individuals are mandated to file a report under WV Code §49-6A-2, including:
- Childcare/foster care workers
- Clergy members, “religious healers,” including Christian Science practitioners
- Medical, dental or mental health providers
- Law enforcement
- Social workers
These individuals are required to file a complaint within 48 hours as part of the Adult Protective Process. A complete list of mandated reporters is available on their website. Any individual making a report of abuse is immune from civil or criminal liability.
One More Option: Hire A Charleston, WV Nursing Home Attorney
There is a two-year window of time to file a lawsuit on behalf of your loved one. If you believe your loved one has been abused, neglected or in any way mistreated by a nursing home employee, and you can’t seem to get any answers, don’t try to manage the situation yourself. Contact The Love Law Firm today at (304) 344-5683 to schedule your free consultation with a Charleston, WV nursing home attorney. We’re ready to be an advocate for the Charleston vulnerable elderly.