My Grandmother is in a Nursing Home in Providence Rhode Island and Called me to Tell me They Make her Wait to go to the Bathroom Causing her to Have Accidents, and then Ridicule Her: Is This Abuse and What Steps Shall I take to Remedy the Situation?

Rhode Island Licensing of Nursing Homes.

The State of Rhode Island licenses and monitors all nursing homes who are doing business within the state to assure safety, compliance with medical protocols and accreditation standards are met annually with the state inspectors. The Office of Facilities Regulation inspects nursing homes to ensure that they adhere to state and federal standards.  Healthcare Quality Reporting Program publishes reports comparing the quality of care provided by different nursing homes. If you feel that your family member has been endangered while living in a nursing home in Providence, Rhode Island, you may need to exercise your legal rights to have the situation corrected. Licenses are issued for a one-year period ending on December 31st of each year and must be renewed annually if the applicant maintains the requirements under Rhode Island law.

Nursing Home Abuse.

Nursing home abuse can occur in a healthcare facility that is licensed to care for individuals who meet the admission criteria to that facility. Abuse includes purposeful deviant acts or negligent acts caused in the institution, place, building, agency, or portion thereof, owned by a public corporation or a private entity, organized for profit or not, operated to provide health care services and elder care.  Health care providers are people within those facilities that are optimally trained or licensed to provide health care services such as those given in a nursing home environment, and include physicians, nurses, aides, podiatrists, physical therapists, psychiatrists, social workers, and any other employee acting within the scope of employment and job description for the benefit of the nursing home as its employer.

Mistreatment is the inappropriate use of medication, physical or chemical restraints, and isolation as a means of 1) punishment, 2) substitute for care or treatment, 3) ignoring doctor’s orders, 4) convenience for staff, and 5) harm or the possibility of harm to the resident or patient.  Neglect is the failure to provide care, treatment and services to the resident to maintain their health and safety; including the intentional failure 1) to effectuate approved treatment plans prescribed by the physician, 2) to report changes in health conditions or problems that need immediate evaluation, and 3) to secure assistance with the activities of daily living such as toileting, bathing, preparing and assistance with meals, and 4) to maintain a safe environment.  Abuse includes hitting, kicking, pinching, slapping or pulling the hair of a resident, and any offence or conduct that harms or will likely cause physical harm to the patient except where the conduct is part of the treatment plan; intentionally harassing the resident causing emotional or psychological harm such as cursing at them, demeaning them, or threatening bodily or emotional harm.

Who is Responsible for Negligence?

The nursing home facility can be held liable for any personal injury or neglect causing harm to a resident or patient in their care.  This negligence may have occurred by their part through 1) negligent hiring, 2) understaffing, 3) breach of regulatory obligations to guidelines, 4) insufficient employee training, or 5) errors in treatment or medication dispensing.

Liability is the state of being responsible for something, especially by law, vicariously liability is a legal doctrine assigning liability for the injury to a person even if they did not cause the injury directly but had a legal relationship with the negligent person who caused the injury.  This means that a nursing home employer can be held responsible for the negligent or abusive acts of its employees during the course of their work and through the scope of their job descriptions.  Due to the nature and varying levels of care given at nursing homes, there are often contracted workers who have direct access to residents that may cause purposeful harm or harm through negligence to a resident.  Those parties, through their contracts with the nursing home, may share the liability for any neglect, abuse or injury to a resident.

Report Abuse.

If you suspect that elder abuse, or negligence related to the level of care given to a resident, you may call the Rhode Island Adult Protective Services unit to make a formal report with the National Center on Elder Abuse.  Each state also has a long-term care ombudsman who can assist you with your concerns of abuse or neglect by calling 1-800-677-1116 or going to  Each situation is unique and the circumstances of it will be the basis for the outcome.  When there is an immediate health risk to a nursing home resident, the local police will need to be contacted to remove the person to a safe environment.  If there has been alleged criminal activity, the police will conduct a formal investigation and refer a legal complaint to the courts.  If the harm, abuse, or mistreatment is not life threatening, state procedures will be followed regarding reporting through the Adult Protective Services, and local social service professionals to evaluate and assess the risks associated with the complaint and what can be done to remedy the situation.

Legal Counsel.

Suspected elder abuse is cause to seek legal counsel and explain your concerns so they can assist you with proper steps to take and records to maintain if you seek an action for damages or personal injury claims against the nursing home or any agents acting on behalf of them. A lawyer can identify the appropriate response in a non-emergency situation and will ensure that the elder person’s well-being and legal rights are protected.