Witnessing multiple residents requesting to use the bathroom and having nursing home staff ignore those requests until the residents soiled themselves was an affront to their human dignity, and was the smallest act of abuse on the long list of abuses noted during a student rotation. Besides reporting this abuse to the course instructor, what else could be done to report the abuse of these elder residents, some of whom had no advocates to their care, to assure their safety?
Under Section Pennsylvania Law 201.29(j), all residents “shall be treated with consideration, respect and full recognition of dignity and individuality, including privacy in treatment and in care for the necessary personal and social needs.”
Violation of Rights is Tort.
Nursing homes may be liable for negligence in care, negligence in hiring/firing staff, and/or negligence in training staff on policies/procedures such as reporting accidents and injuries. Residents or families can sue for monetary compensation for an injury resulting from abuse, neglect, or accidents such as a fall from a bed accident.
Nursing Home Abuse.
Nursing home abuse is defined in Pennsylvania Law Section 201.3 as “the infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or punishment with the result of physical harm or pain or mental anguish, or deprivation by an individual, including a caretaker, of goods or services that are necessary to attain or maintain physical, mental and psycho-social well-being. This presumes that instances of abuse of all residents, even those in a coma, cause physical harm, or pain or mental anguish.”
Common types of abuse:
- Verbal abuse – The directed use of oral, written language or improper gestures that include critical, offensive and belittling terms to residents or their families, or where they can be heard even when a resident cannot comprehend such abuse including: 1) threats of harm or scaring them through fabricated stories.
- Sexual abuse – sexual harassment, sexual coercion or sexual assault.
- Physical abuse – to hit, slap, pinch or kick or affect control by the threat of corporal punishment.
- Mental abuse – humiliation, harassment, threatening punishment or deprivation, and gas lighting.
- Involuntary seclusion – Separating a resident from other residents taking them from their personal space, or even confinement to his room (with/without roommates) against the resident’s will, or the will of the resident’s legal representative.
Shortage of Workers.
Nursing home care in Pennsylvania is problematic due to the ratio of workers per residents, where it is recommended that ratio be 4:1 in Pennsylvania it is more likely half that amount, causing more pressure on the workers where they may take out their frustrations and time-limitations on the residents. In this instance the abuse may be unintentional, but warning signs may include 1) developing bed sores due to failure to change the victim’s sheets and/or regularly re-position the resident to improve circulation; 2) exacerbation of conditions like diabetes due to negative change in medication, diet and exercise; 3) frequent falls; or 4) poor hygiene such as bathing or brushing teeth.
Reporting Abuse in Pennsylvania.
As a witness to nursing home abuse, you should report it to the Director of Nursing on the unit, and the Administrator of the Facility, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman at (717) 783-8975, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health at the toll-free number (800) 254-5164.
Call an Attorney.
If you have personally experienced nursing home abuse, or are a family member of someone who has, you should seek the legal advice of an attorney specializing in cases that will address your concerns at the Law Office of Metzger & Kleiner.
Lehigh Valley Office
137 North Fifth Street Allentown, PA 18102
Phone : 610-435-7400