Many injuries caused by nursing home abuse and neglect are never reported to law enforcement, as required by federal regulations.
Unreported Cases of Nursing Home Abuse
According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 25 percent of serious nursing home abuse cases are not reported to the police. Between 2015 and 2016, the Office of Inspector General uncovered 134 cases of severe abuse and neglect in 33 different states that were never reported to law enforcement, as mandated by state and federal laws. Reports show that Illinois had the highest number of abuse and neglect cases, accounting for 17 victims.
The majority of unreported cases involved acts of sexual assault against elderly residents. Some cases caused injuries severe enough to send residents to hospital emergency rooms. One incident cited an elderly woman who was left with deep bruises after a sexual assault. Rather than reporting the incident to the police within two hours as required by law, the nursing home simply cleaned the woman up destroying any evidence of the crime. The following day, the nursing home informed the victim’s family of the assault, and family members called the police. Nursing home officials told police that it was not necessary for them to come to the facility to conduct an investigation.
As a result of so many cases of unreported nursing home abuse, investigations were launched around the country. One investigation focused solely on nursing home residents sent to hospital emergency rooms. The investigation looked at Medicare claims in 2016 that involved treatment for body bruises and abrasions, fractures and broken bones, head injuries, bedsores, malnutrition, and dehydration that might signal signs of physical abuse, sexual assault, and severe neglect. The Deputy Inspector General responsible for Medicare audits found that nursing homes failed to report 1 in 5 cases of abuse and neglect.
Nursing homes funded by Medicare and Medicaid are regulated by federal laws. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that Medicare and Medicaid claims should be examined more carefully to look for possible signs of abuse and neglect. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services pays for a large majority of health care services for seniors and provides guidance on the reporting regulations for nursing home facilities and health care workers. However, they have ignored recommendations to take a closer look at claims.