According to the Indiana Attorney General, over 40,000 cases of elder abuse and neglect occur in the state every year, with a large portion of that taking place inside nursing homes and assisted living facilities. With such alarming rates, it is important to understand the laws that protect older adults from abuse and neglect, and what you can do if you believe a senior citizen is not being treated well at a nursing home. Our nursing home abuse attorneys explain the basics and explore a few options to hold nursing homes responsible.
What Does an Indiana Nursing Home Residents Bill of Rights Say?
In Indiana, nursing home residents have a bill of rights informed by guidelines established in 1987 as part of the Federal Nursing Home Reform Law. The law requires nursing homes to promote and protect the rights of each resident, with a strong focus on self-determination and dignity.
The bill outlines several resident’s rights, including the right to be treated with dignity, live in a caring environment free from abuse, mistreatment, and neglect, and the right to live without the fear of enduring physical restraint. The bill of rights goes on to cover several aspects of a resident’s life regarding social interactions, making medical decisions, and refusing treatment.
What Are the Most Common Signs of Nursing Home Abuse?
Nursing home abuse does not always mean physical abuse. It can simply mean the lack of proper care, such as when the resident appears to have not been fed or hydrated properly, who is not receiving enough help to maintain minimum hygiene standards, or even who seems fearful of their caretaker. Other red flags include bedsores, bruises, inconsistencies regarding the dosage and frequency of medications a patient is supposed to receive (some drug-dependent caretakers may steal medication for their own purposes), as well as any delays in reporting injuries to a resident.
Nursing home abuse can also be verbal or emotional, such as insults and threats to a patient or physically isolated patients who are not allowed social contact with other residents. Sometimes, caretakers may neglect a patient by failing to notice they are unable to get food from a plate to their mouth and thus cannot feed themselves without help, and end up malnourished or always begging for food.
Are There Laws Protecting Indiana Nursing Home Residents From Abuse?
The state of Indiana created the Adult Protective Services Act to receive and investigate reports concerning adults within the state who may be endangered or victims of abuse, neglect, or exploitation. The act makes it mandatory for anyone working in a nursing home to report any suspicion of neglect, abuse, or endangerment to the authorities.
The Adult Protective Services field investigators will work closely with law enforcement to investigate any reports and make a determination about whether the adult is in danger, and will coordinate a response to protect the endangered adult. To be considered an endangered adult, an individual must be 18 years of age or older and must be incapable due to issues such as mental illness, dementia, intellectual disability, or have any physical or mental incapacity of caring for themselves and their property.
What Should I Do If I Believe My Loved One Is a Victim of Nursing Home Abuse?
As mentioned previously, Indiana is a mandatory reporting state, meaning that anyone who suspects an older adult may be endangered is required by law to report it to an Adult Protective Services unit or law enforcement. Reports made to APS are kept confidential. If you suspect a nursing home resident may be suffering from abuse, battery, neglect, or exploitation of any kind, you need to report it.
If you believe this to be an emergency, you need to get law enforcement involved and call 911 right away. If this is not a life-threatening situation but still requires attention, you can call the Adult Protective Services Hotline at 800-992-6978 or go online to make a confidential report. You may also search for the nearest APS office in your area and file a complaint in person.
In addition, you can also hold the nursing home responsible by filing a civil lawsuit. If your loved one suffered neglect or abuse at a nursing home, you may initiate a lawsuit on their behalf to seek compensation or damages. You can sue a nursing home for bed sores, falls, personal injury, and even medical malpractice, depending on the specifics of your case. Your elderly loved one can initiate the lawsuit if they have the mental capacity to do so, or you can act as their agent and file the lawsuit on their behalf. Either way, you will need to work with an attorney who has a long history of successfully holding nursing homes accountable for abuse and neglect towards their residents.
At Hilbrich Law, our legal team has assisted many nursing home residents and their families to speak up and hold long-term care facilities responsible for the neglect and abuse of their loved ones. We know how to navigate the complexities of a civil suit against a nursing home and can help you increase your chances of a successful outcome. Contact our legal team and request a free consultation to learn your options.