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New Study Says Many Residents Fear Nursing Home Retaliation

A nursing home resident covers her face in fear.

Nursing home retaliation involves negative actions taken by nursing home staff or administration against residents. It’s often done as a response to complaints or concerns raised by those residents. This can include various forms of punishment, neglect, or abuse.

Fear of retaliation means some residents won’t report abuse or neglect

The fear of such retaliation often discourages residents from voicing legitimate concerns about their care or the conditions of a nursing home. This creates a cycle of silence and potential mistreatment.

Attorney George S. Johnson has seen this level of nursing home abuse and neglect far too often. That’s why Attorney Johnson and his legal team are dedicated to holding responsible parties accountable and getting justice for victims and their loved ones.

What types of nursing home retaliation do residents fear?

In nursing homes, many residents, such as one anonymous individual, remain silent about their care due to fear of staff retaliation. This fear leads to serious emotional, psychological, and physical impacts. Unfortunately, this issue has been ignored in both policy and research.

Eilon Caspi, a gerontologist and assistant research professor at UConn’s Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy, seeks to address this gap with his new study in the Journal of Applied Gerontology.

Caspi analyzed 100 survey and complaint reports from state agencies across 30 states. His work represents the most comprehensive analysis to date regarding the fear of retaliation among U.S. nursing home residents.

The study delves into four aspects of this issue:

  • The fear of retaliation itself.
  • Allegations and perceptions of threats of retaliation.
  • Actual retaliation.
  • Its emotional consequences on residents.

How does the power imbalance between residents and staff lead to nursing home retaliation?

According to the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center, the fear of retaliation is a major reason residents hesitate to pursue complaints. Residents depend on staff for basic needs, which can amplify their fear of potential repercussions.

Caspi’s findings reveal various forms of retaliation, including threats of eviction, physical violence, delayed care, and aggressive confrontations. These fears and actual events of retaliation lead to resident suffering and are inadequately addressed in current practices.

A key factor in this fear is the power imbalance between staff and residents. This imbalance often results in unreported or underreported abuse due to residents' fear of retaliation or staff protecting their colleagues.

Caspi notes that this dynamic can lead to a state of learned helplessness, where residents stop voicing concerns due to repeated failures to effect change.

How can retaliation in nursing homes be prevented?

Caspi’s study suggests several implications for policy and practice. These include:

  • Educational programs for residents, families, and staff.
  • Oversight and enforcement of federal rights.
  • National and state awareness campaigns.

Education would empower residents and families to address neglect and retaliation and clarify what constitutes retaliation.

Connecticut state law mandates annual staff training on fear of retaliation in nursing homes. This covers complaint rights, examples of retaliation, and prevention strategies. However, this requirement is unique to Connecticut and doesn’t extend to assisted living facilities. This is a gap that needs to be addressed.

Caspi argues that all states should enact similar laws and expand them to include assisted living residences. Additionally, he advocates for strengthened federal oversight and enforcement related to the fear of retaliation.

Currently, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) doesn’t have a central tracking system in place for its 15,000 nursing homes. Additionally, the National Ombudsman Reporting System records only complaints of actual retaliation, not the fear of it.

Caspi stresses the importance of tracking and addressing the fear of retaliation. He states, “Left untracked, the phenomenon remains invisible, important opportunities for learning and prevention are missed, and vulnerable residents remain silenced.”

Review your legal options if a loved one was harmed in a nursing home

Nursing home staff and administrators have a duty to protect and care for residents. When they fail to uphold this duty, residents have the right to complain and voice their concerns. Staff and administrators who retaliate against residents should be held accountable.

If your loved one was harmed in a Georgia nursing home, the legal team at Johnson Greer Law Group can protect your family’s rights.

Contact us online or call our Decatur law office for a free consultation. We’ll go over your legal options and answer any questions you have regarding your potential claim.

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