A troubling report published this year by the Long Term Care Community Coalition (LTCCC) sheds light on why so many cases of nursing home neglect and abuse go unreported. The report, “’They Make You Pay:’ How Fear of Retaliation Silences Residents in America’s Nursing Homes,” discusses the threat of retaliation that many nursing home residents internalize and that keeps them from speaking up.
This threat isn’t imagined. Residents who were interviewed said they’d seen nursing home staff retaliate against residents. Retaliatory conduct included everything from by “delaying resident care or sabotaging meals” to physical abuse.
According to other reporting by the Atlanta Long-Term Care Ombudsman, 44% of nursing home residents who said they’d seen another resident abused didn’t report it. Half of those said that was because they feared retaliation.
How understaffing worsens the risk of neglect and abuse
While understaffing is no excuse for neglect, and certainly not for abuse, it can make it harder for facilities to maintain a staff that can provide quality care to residents. It may also make it more difficult for them to hire people with the experience, skills and temperament for this challenging occupation and to get rid of those who aren’t up to the task.
The LTCCC report acknowledges the connection, saying “Higher turnover is associated with worse quality of care.” Health care professionals like nurses can generally find less demanding jobs that pay better.
What can loved ones do?
The fear of retaliation not only makes residents afraid to report neglect or abuse to those in authority at their care facility. They may be afraid to report it to family members. If a family member goes to the management of the facility, it will become known that they reported mistreatment and which employee(s) they reported. This could only make things worse for them unless there is a plan in place to safeguard their interests.
That’s why it’s crucial for loved ones to be on the lookout for signs of neglect or abuse. Even if your loved one insists there’s no problem, it’s wise to trust your instincts. Unless your loved one appears to be in immediate danger, it may be wise to tread carefully. Getting experienced legal guidance can be a good first step in addressing a delicate, yet urgent, concern.