One of the most troubling decisions you may face in your lifetime is deciding whether or not a parent or senior relative should be placed in the care of a nursing home. In many cases, families do not have a choice as the health of their relatives depends upon a continuous cycle of care by doctors and nurses. One would hope that the caregivers and other personnel at these facilities are fully vetted, trained, morally noble and responsible individuals, eager to provide their best care and peace of mind to the families who rely on them. Unfortunately, with the number of abuse cases we see here at Rizklaw, this isn’t always the case.
The number of incidents of senior care abuse is likely higher than anyone assumes, but we don’t have reliable information to draw from. There is no national database to keep track of abuse complaints, and agencies at the state level do a poor job. Most agencies dedicated to conducting investigations and filing reports are severely underfunded and understaffed.
What’s worse? In Oregon, the state’s taxpayer-funded website for consumers researching care facilities omitted nearly 8,000 substantiated abuse complaints against senior care centers. That’s 60% of all complaints filed. Complaints ranging from serious medical concerns like a fractured hip or medication mixups to complaints filed about valuables gone missing were deleted from the website, misleading consumers looking to place their relatives in the 600+ long-term care facilities throughout the state. Record of wrongful death due to negligence were also missing.
What little data remains on the website includes excruciatingly vague descriptions, such as “inadequate hygiene” or “exposed to potential harm.” In one instance, a resident of a northeast Portland facility fell in the middle of the night and started to bleed from the head. Rather than call upon a nurse to evaluate the situation more closely, the resident was placed back in bed by the caregiver on duty. The next day, the same resident complained of pain. It was discovered that the resident had suffered a fractured hip. After all this, the report online simply stated the outcome of the complaint as “unreasonable discomfort.”
If you are looking to place your parents in a facility, would “unreasonable discomfort” be enough information for you to choose against that facility and look elsewhere? Highly doubtful. If you are currently on the prowl for a reputable facility, you may feel as though you are playing a game of Russian Roulette with your mother or father’s well-being.
How are Reports Filed?
Victims, family members, ombudsmen, or the facilities themselves may report abuse, neglect, or improper care to Oregon’s Department of Human Services. There is an entire process dedicated to deciding whether allegations are serious enough to investigate; and therefore, whether or not to release them to the public.
According to The Oregonian’s thorough investigation of this problem, when state officials find that a complaint is serious enough, they will begin an inquiry a day after the complaint is received by Adult Protective Services. When a death or hospitalization are involved, inspectors quickly arrive within two hours to mitigate chances of more harm. Facility records are reviewed, including the victim’s care plan, health chart, medication record and notes left by caregivers. Staff, loved ones, and victims are interviewed whenever possible.
The procedure varies by each unique case that is presented, but when over half of the evidence could be tied to abuse, the complaint is substantiated.
Reporting Elder Abuse in Oregon
Oregon’s Department of Human Services was put on the spot by The Oregonian, which resulted in some records being put back. There is still a long way to go for the website to be fully updated with pertinent information. If you suspect elder abuse is taking place, there are steps you should take to ensure someone is notified of the situation.
Calling 911 or your local police station is appropriate if you suspect theft or physical abuse has occurred. You can also call your county’s DHS office of Aging and Peoples with Physical Disabilities or you can call the central office at 503-945-5811.
The SAFE hotline is a toll-free number you can use to report abuse or neglect of any child or adult: 1-855-503-SAFE (7233).
You should also get an attorney involved to protect your rights. Call Rizklaw at 503-245-5677 for a free consultation with a Portland personal injury attorney who handles cases of nursing home abuse. For years Richard Rizk has worked on all sides of the law, and can provide your case with a significant benefit. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.