Eliminating Fears of Retaliation in Elder Abuse Cases
Nursing home abuse and neglect often go unreported by facility administrators, healthcare workers, and residents due to fears of retaliation.
Reporting Nursing Home Abuse
Facility administrators often fail to make reports about abuse or neglect because they fear state and federal investigations that could subject them to steep fines, harsh penalties, and potential closure. In federally-funded nursing homes, reports of abused patients could put Medicare and Medicaid funding at risk. Healthcare workers and staff members fear retaliation of job termination or reduced hours and pay. Residents fear retaliation from further abuse and neglect. Many residents report retaliation from nurses and aides who withhold or delay pain medications, ignore call lights, delay hot meals, and neglect basic needs. As a result, thousands of innocent nursing home residents suffer in silence.
In 1987, Congress established the Nursing Home Reform Act as a way to eliminate nursing home abuse and neglect. Over the years, many states have adopted laws that protect all individuals who submit complaints of abuse or neglect from forms of retaliation. There are also laws under the Affordable Care Act that provide healthcare workers and nursing home residents with whistleblower and retaliation protection.
Many nurses and nursing home workers feel obligated to report resident abuse to protect their patients, but fear to lose their jobs as retaliation for reporting. In a recent case, an Ohio hospice nurse who rendered hospice services to nursing home residents reported incidents of a patient’s abuse. She took photos of bruises on an 80-year-old patient and showed them to the nursing home administrator and the patient’s family members. Shortly after, the nurse was terminated by her hospice agency for violating proper reporting procedures. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the hospice nurse met the requirements for a whistleblower, and allowed her to sue her former employer for retaliation and wrongful discharge.
Nurses and other healthcare workers, facility administrators and nursing home residents should be thanked, not punished, for their bravery in coming forward, making reports, and filing claims with an elder abuse attorney when nursing home abuse or neglect is suspected. When these people become a voice for elderly victims, they ensure that America’s most vulnerable people are protected from the pain and suffering that too often occurs in nursing home facilities throughout the nation.