Though it’s the third most regulated business in the country, nursing homes still fall short in reporting incidents and abuse.  Intentional policy of cover up or poor training?

According to a report done by The Anniston Star, which surveyed state nursing home inspections for Calhoun County in Alabama, nursing homes are confused over what they are supposed to report. The nursing home records, some of which date back as far as 10 years, examined by the report also showed that nursing home staff often fail to properly investigate and report signs that their residents were being abused.

In many cases, nursing homes only address residents’ abuse when it has already been brought to the attention of state investigators. In August 2010, Beckwood Nursing Home in Alabama fired a nurse for verbal abuse after she allegedly called a resident a “crippled bastard.” Reports of sexual harassment between residents also go unreported such as in 2010, Golden Living Center of Oxford, Ala. a staff member failed to report seeing one resident touching another resident’s breast against her will. The incident was investigated the following April, when the resident’s family was finally notified.

The Star reported that though the Alabama Department of Public Health administers unannounced inspections to each of the state’s 230 nursing homes at least once every 15 months, in addition to inspections held when residents file complaints, there is a problem that no frequency of inspections can fix; which is the intentional abuse of residents and the failure to promptly report indicators of abuse to state officials.

Though the law requires that every report of abuse made to the nursing home be investigated, many facilities don’t report them because they are unsure of how to approach the reports made. To help the nursing homes with recognizing and reporting abuse, the Alabama Department of Senior Services employs staff members who travel to the area nursing homes and act as advocates for the residents.

The workers, called ombudsmen, talk with residents and their families after receiving complaints or seeing signs of abuse and mediate the issues with the nursing home staffs. They work with the councils for the residents to ensure that they and their families know their rights in reporting abuse. The ombudsmen also assist in training nursing home staff to prevent, recognize, and report abuse.

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