Michigan Nursing Home Abuse Laws Rank Well – Yet Neglect Still Happens
An alarming statistic: The National Center on Elder Abuse reports more than 95 percent of elder abuse cases go unreported every year. And even though Michigan recently ranked No. 4 (Wallethub, 2018) for having some of the best elder abuse protections in the country, horrific acts of elder-abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation occurring at nursing homes, Veterans Affairs facilities and long-term care settings, are reported each month to authorities across the state. This is a just a snapshot of some of the most recent reports that made headlines.
- March, 2018: A Detroit family sued after they collected video evidence showed across national media outlets displaying the terrifying physical and emotional abuse of an elderly resident recovering from a surgery at Livonia’s Autumnwood nursing home.
- September, 2018: According to a facility inspection report by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Advantage Living Center in Wayne, failed to provide residents showers due to understaffing, resulting in the spread of infection and depression for many residents.
- December, 2018: One person was taken into custody after a sexual assault at a Detroit nursing home in the 22800 block of West Seven Mile Road, Detroit police said. (This is an ongoing investigation.)
Most Michigan community leaders and long-term care organizations do recognize that elder abuse is a real and growing issue, but not enough influencers are fighting hard enough to stop it. It remains ever-so important for family members and friends of those residing in nursing homes, as well as employees who whistleblow about care concerns including understaffing, to speak up on behalf of those who may not recognize their abusers or be able to communicate about their neglect.
Understanding Elder Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation
Elder and vulnerable adult abuse, neglect and exploitation are behaviors committed against an elder or vulnerable adult who is unable to protect himself or herself due to a mental or physical impairment or due to advanced age. The perpetrators are often trusted caregivers and happens in licensed settings such as adult foster care, community living centers for those with dementia and other disabilities, in both for-profit and non-profit, understaffed nursing homes.
General abuse is defined as harm to an adult’s health or welfare caused by another person and can present in three different forms.
- Physical abuse. This includes things like hitting, pushing, shoving, shaking, beating, burning, and using drugs and physical and medical restraints in an inappropriate way.
- Sexual abuse. This includes unwanted touching, rape, sodomy, coerced nudity, sexually explicit photographing and video recording, and sexual contact with someone who can’t give consent.
- Emotional abuse. This includes verbal assaults, insults, threats, intimidation, humiliation, harassment, treating an older person like a baby, and isolating an older person.
Neglect is the inability or failure of the individual responsible for the care of the vulnerable elder to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing, medical care, showering, toileting, and pain management.
And exploitation is the misuse of an adult’s funds, property or personal dignity by another person, including a variety of scams, misusing or stealing an older adult’s money or possessions, coercing an older person into signing a document, cashing an older adult’s checks without permission, and forging a signature.
In Michigan, there are state laws that make elder abuse a crime, and someone can go to jail if they are found guilty of committing it. If you suspect elder abuse, gross-neglect, or exploitation of any kind in a nursing home or long-term care setting, it’s important to report concerns immediately.
Protecting Your Loved One from Abuse and Neglect
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living says there are several warning signs to look out for when identifying elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. Those may include:
- Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, scratches, hair loss, abrasions, and burns
- Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, anxiety and unusual depression
- Bruises around the breasts or genital area from sexual abuse
- Sudden changes in financial situations
- Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss
- Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by staff
- Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person
If you do have suspicions about the care your loved one is receiving, make sure to speak up and follow these precautions:
- Don’t make your visits predictable, visit frequently, and at different times on different days
- Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions to your loved one and their care staff about care
- Check for bedsores, unexplained bruises, and sensitivity to pain
- Note the cleanliness of all the residents and the facility, including the bathroom
- Check for weight loss and learn the signs of dehydration
- Request a medication review
- Keep a small journal for notes during and after visits
- On each visit, have your photo taken with your loved one and date it
- Report any suspected abuse immediately
Simply starting a conversation with a nursing home resident and visiting them often or calling to check-in, can deter abuse and neglect from occurring. But if you do suspect an issue, no matter how small, either by another resident or a nursing home employee in Michigan, notify:
- Bureau of Health Services Abuse Hotline: 800-882-6006
- Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service, Inc.:
- Developmental Disabilities: 800-288-5923
- Mental Illness: 800-288-5923
- Attorney General 24-hour Health Care Fraud Hotline: 800-24-ABUSE (800-242-2873)
- Notify the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (DHS), Adult Protective Services. Statewide 24-Hour Hotline: 855-444-3911
A nursing home abuse attorney can help validate your concerns as well. And we understand it can be a difficult time for your family to travel to a lawyer. With offices throughout the state of Michigan, the team at the Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C. can come to you to learn more about your nursing home abuse and neglect concerns.
If You Need Help, We Will Come to You
Our team of Michigan nursing home and medical malpractice lawyers is ready to fight to ensure you and your family receives fair compensation for the injustices against them while residing in a nursing home or care setting. There is no fee unless we win your case. Please contact us at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) for a free phone consultation or visit us online to send our team a message.