An audit sheds light on an alarming statistic. Over 25 percent of possible sexual and physical abuse cases involving nursing home residents were never reported to law enforcement.
Conducted by the Health and Human Services inspector general’s office, the audit also reveals that Medicare has failed to enforce a federal law that calls for prompt notification by nursing homes.
In response to the findings, the inspector general’s office issued an early alert stating the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has inadequate procedures to ensure that potential abuse or neglect gets reported.
According to a news report by STAT, a larger ongoing investigation is under way and additional findings are expected.
Recognizing the signs
Given the conclusion of the government’s audit that abuse may go unreported, families should be aware of the signs of the main types of abuse:
- Physical abuse: A victim may display symptoms such as broken bones, sprains, bruising, welts, internal injuries, cuts or open wounds, to name a few common signs of physical abuse.
- Sexual abuse: A patient may have unexplained genital infections, sexually transmitted diseases or bruises on breasts or genital areas.
Families should also look out for sudden changes in a loved one’s personality. Victims may become withdrawn or depressed after experiencing abuse but may be unable to express what happened to them.
The STAT article states that unreported cases involve alleged or suspected rape or sexual abuse 80 percent of the time.
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) is pushing for Medicare to take action now rather than wait for the ongoing investigation to end.
“It’s unacceptable for more than one-fourth of potential crimes in nursing homes to apparently go unreported,” Grassley said in a statement, according to STAT.
Investigators pored over billing records stored in computers to find signs of possible abuse of nursing home patients. The inspector general has called on Medicare to take similar action to uncover cases of abuse.
Investigators working for the inspector general found 134 cases between 2015-2016 by matching nursing home records with hospital emergency room records, according to STAT.
Of those cases, 38 – or 28 percent – were apparently not reported to police, despite a federal law requiring nursing homes to contact police within two hours if there is serious bodily injury and within 24 hours in other cases of suspected abuse.
In the cases that were reported to law enforcement, investigators could not determine if police were notified in the required time frame.
Nursing homes are an important part of the lives of a growing number of Georgians. The number of residents continues to grow as more and more people in Georgia and throughout the United States are living into their 80s and 90s.
If you suspect your loved one was abused in a nursing home, reach out to an experienced attorney who can help hold the responsible parties accountable. Contact the Law Offices of George S. Johnson today for a free consultation.