Reporting Nursing Home Abuse in Pennsylvania

April 29, 2016

Our grandparents and parents are getting older. We’re getting older. The CDC has reported an all-time high in U.S. life expectancy based on 2012 data – an average of 78.8 years. The life expectancy for females was 81.2 years, while the life expectancy for men was 76.4 years. That number is likely to keep rising due to advances in medical technologies and growing awareness about healthy lifestyles. But what happens when people live beyond being able to care for themselves? It means that families must turn to long-term nursing home facilities, hope they find a reputable one, and trust that quality care will be provided.

Elder Abuse Statistics

Unfortunately, the reality is that elder abuse affects more than two million U.S. seniors annually, 36 percent of nursing homes have violated elderly abuse laws and a staggering 91 percent lack adequate staff to properly care for patients. Despite its prevalence, many people are unaware of elder abuse until it touches their own family. According to 2010 data compiled by the National Ombudsman Reporting System, physical abuse was the most common type of abuse in U.S. nursing homes, followed by resident-to-resident abuse, psychological abuse, gross neglect, sexual abuse and financial exploitation.

Abuse is generally caused — or at least exacerbated — by a combination of psychological, social and economic factors. If the victim has mental or physical limitations, this makes maltreatment even more difficult to pinpoint. For example, people with dementia are thought to be at greater risk for abuse, presumably because what they say is generally not taken very seriously, and any accusations can therefore easily be deflected. In other instances, residents may be reluctant to mention abusive treatment because they are afraid they will be evicted from the facility, will burden their families, or will suffer retaliation.

Reporting Elder Abuse

If you’re concerned about nursing home abuse, you should speak with the director or administrator of the facility. By law, all nursing homes must have a system in place to address your concerns and must develop a plan to lead to a reasonable and acceptable solution.

Elder Abuse Hotline

If you don’t feel the issue was resolved, you can then call the Pennsylvania Department of Aging’s confidential 24-hour elder abuse hotline at 1-800-490-8505. For more resources, you can also contact your local Area Agency on Aging as well as your local long-term care ombudsman who acts as an advocate for people who live in care facilities. You should also call the Pennsylvania Department of Health at 1-800-254-5164 or use this online complaint form. All state health agencies are required to investigate complaints sent to them about nursing homes. If you are concerned that someone you know might be a victim of elder abuse and is in life-threatening danger, or if you are a victim yourself, call the police or 911 immediately.

Getting Help

Protecting vulnerable older adults from abuse should be a priority for us all. If you have any questions about this topic, or believe that a nursing home was responsible for your loved one’s death or injury, the attorneys at Wapner Newman can help. For almost 40 years, we have been the trusted advocates for countless personal injury victims and their families throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We offer risk-free consultations and work on a contingency basis, which means that we do not require you to pay any fees until we have secured a recovery on your behalf. We encourage you to contact us today by calling 1-800-529-6600 or filling out a free case evaluation form.