What You Can Do

Be selective when choosing a nursing home or assisted living facility, and take advantage of available resources. Residents often have limited communication ability, so identifying potential abuse requires careful monitoring. Monitor your loved one’s treatment at the chosen facility on a regular basis, and immediately voice your concerns if you suspect any type of abuse, neglect or denial of your loved one’s rights. Studies show that family involvement increases the likelihood that a long-term care resident will receive quality care.

Evaluating nursing homes and assisted living facilities

  • Compare facilities by referencing their state survey reports on www.medicare.gov/nhcompare
  • Familiarize yourself with the state and federal laws and regulations involving nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
  • Talk to residents. Observe their physical well-bring and behavior. Also visit with residents’ families if possible, and learn whether they have experienced problems with the facility.
  • Avoid facilities that have restricted access.
  • Meet with key personnel (nurses, aides, social workers, adminstrators and doctors).
  • Visit frequently. Vary your visits to different times of the day and evening to assess the care provided during all times of the day, night, weekends, and holidays.
  • Use your senses. Trust your sight, hearing, smell and touch senses. Pay careful attention to whether residents appear clean, well-fed and free of bruises or other wounds. Also note if the environment is peaceful and indicative of a safe and respectful quality of life.
  • Document in writing the details about any problems or concerns.

Confronting the Nursing Home or Assisted Living Facility

Any person may make a complaint against any nursing home to the licensing and certification branch of the state health department and request that the nursing home be inspected to substantiate the complaint. The complaint may be made orally or in writing. Once a complaint is received, the state agency assigns an inspector to make a preliminary review of the complaint. The complainant is normally notified of the inspector’s name and proposed course of action. An onsite visit to the nursing home to investigate the complaint can take place as early as ten working days following receipt of the complaint. By law, the nursing home should not be notified in advance of the investigation.

When investigating the complaint, the inspector will collect and evaluate all available evidence based on what he sees, statements of witnesses and a review of facility records. As a result of the investigation, the inspector determines whether the complaint is substantiated or unsubstantiated. If the complaint is substantiated, a citation may be issued against the nursing home. The person who made the complaint is then notified of the determination in writing.

If the complainant is dissatisfied with the determination, they may request an informal hearing with the state agency. A hearing may include a representative of the nursing home. If the complainant is not satisfied with the results of that hearing, they may appeal to a higher level for review. This review process is usually performed by an appeals unit, and the complainant is notified of the results in writing.

Pursue Legal Action Against the Nursing Home or Assisted Living Facility

Civil litigation: If your loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, you have the option to take private legal action against the nursing home in court. Each state has time limitations within which legal action must be taken. You may want to consider consulting a nursing home abuse lawyer who can determine those time frames and provide guidance about how to proceed with legal action on behalf of your loved one. If you have questions about your legal rights, we welcome you to contact us by filling out the form on the right.