Federal officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General say that nursing home neglect in New Jersey nursing homes was missed by inspectors. According to reports, the nursing homes have not been consistent in their reporting suspected nursing home abuse or neglect. Furthermore, inspectors failed to recognize signs that residents may have been intentionally harmed.
Nursing Home Neglect Missed by Inspectors
The Office of Inspector General recently released an audit based on hospital claims from 2016 that were paid by Medicaid. The goal of the audit was to determine how consistently nursing homes adhere to state and federal laws regarding reporting of incidents that cause injury. Also, the audit aimed to determine how thorough state Department of Health inspections are.
The audit consisted of 4,402 claims, which showed the following:
- 311 Medicaid hospital claims involving incidents of possible neglect or abuse;
- 220 claims resulting from potential neglect or abuse that was not reported to the Health Department or investigated by the nursing home;
- 616 claims where conclusions could not be made because there was not sufficient information provided by the nursing home.
The audit details the medical conditions that most commonly resulted in nursing home residents being hospitalized. These medical conditions include:
- Pneumonia resulting from inhaled vomit or food
- Stage 4 bedsores
- Head or facial injuries
- Severe sepsis or septic shock
According to the audit,
“These deficiencies occurred because nursing facility staff did not follow requirements for investigating and reporting potential incidents of abuse or neglect. In addition, New Jersey did not have adequate survey procedures for ensuring that nursing facilities documented all such incidents.”
It also appears that many of the nursing homes in the audit were understaffed at the time of the review. Data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) suggest that one in every four nursing homes in New Jersey have staffing shortages.
CMS also ranks 25 percent of New Jersey nursing homes as “below average” or “much below average” for measures like staffing and nursing personnel.
Signs of Nursing Home Neglect
The audit shows more than just a series of unreported suspicions of nursing home neglect or abuse. It also details some very particular situations that are common signs of nursing home abuse. Examples of the cases detailed in the audit include:
- A resident who suffered a hip injury after she was thrown from her bed by another resident.
- Another resident who was found bleeding from her head. She was confused an could not explain what happened or how she ended up in the hallway.
- And yet another who needed hospital care after a fall was not provided with the care needed. The facility did not provide any records.
Fall injuries and bedsores are two of the most common signs of neglect or abuse. In each of these cases, the nursing home did not report the incident to the state. Reports that were filed in similar cases did not provide enough information to adequately explain the circumstances.
The state Health Commissioner is not disputing the findings of the audit, but instead has provided a list of ways that the state has improved nursing home investigations since 2016.
Have Investigations Improved?
According to a letter from Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, since 2016, the Health Department has made the following improvements:
- Allowing nursing homes to electronically submit reports of possible abuse or neglect.
- Providing on-site presentations on how to detect and report suspected abuse or neglect.
- Routine inspections now include medical record reviews. If inspectors find unreported abuse or neglect, they can write up the facility and mandate a corrective plan of action.
With a new light shed on problems with reporting nursing home neglect – especially now that nursing homes are battling COVID-19 – there is no doubt that New Jersey and other states need to take a closer look at their policies for reporting deficiencies and suspected abuse or neglect.
What to Do If You Suspect Neglect or Abuse
Whether you are a nursing home resident, family member or staff member, if you suspect nursing home neglect, it is important to take the right steps to protect the victim. Many people are unsure of how to get help if they suspect that someone else is being harmed. Here is our advice for what to do if you suspect nursing home neglect or abuse:
- If the victim is in immediate physical danger, call 911.
- Notify the nursing home administrator of your concerns.
- If you or a loved one is the victim, get medical help right away.
- Contact Adult Protective Services (APS) if you want to file an anonymous report.
One of the best things that you can do if you suspect nursing home neglect or abuse is to contact a skilled nursing home abuse lawyer. At Brown, Christie & Green, our attorneys are dedicated to helping the victims of medical negligence, including negligence at the hands of nursing homes, their staff or nurses.
If you suspect that a nursing home resident is suffering abuse or neglect, contact us to find out your best options for protecting them and their legal rights. We offer a free, confidential consultation, so you have nothing to lose. Contact us as soon as possible by calling 1-800-600-4210, or by completing our online contact form.