Abuse Underreporting in Nursing Homes

Elder abuse and neglect in Orange County often result in severe and deadly resident injuries in nursing homes. Abuse can take many different forms, from intentional physical, emotional, or sexual abuse to passive neglect. To be clear, even when a staff member or other employee of a nursing home does not intend to cause harm, failing to attend to a resident’s health needs can result in serious harm for which the facility can be liable. Likewise, injuries resulting from intentional harm can also result in successful nursing home abuse and neglect claims against the facility, as well as the perpetrators. While studies underscore that nursing home abuse and neglect injuries occur with some frequency, they also highlight that abuse and neglect often go unreported.

To be sure, some studies suggest that the underreporting of nursing home abuse and neglect means that rates of harm are significantly higher than data currently indicate. Why is nursing home abuse and neglect underreported? There are many potential reasons that various studies have addressed, but a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Connecticut argues that fears of retaliation are central to understanding the problem. What do you need to know? Our Orange County nursing home negligence lawyers can say more.

Common Reasons for Abuse and Neglect Underreporting in Southern California Nursing Homes and Assisted-Living Facilities

There is not a single reason or a “smoking gun” that explains why elder abuse and neglect are underreported in nursing homes and assisted-living facility settings. However, researchers have identified a number of reasons that underreporting likely occurs, and the reasons vary widely. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the following are the most commonly cited reasons for the failure of residents to report abuse or neglect:

  • Inability to report as a result of mental or physical incapacity;
  • Need to rely on the abuser for care and fear of not receiving future care;
  • Feelings of shame;
  • Concerns about the abuser getting “in trouble”;
  • Worries that the report of abuse will not be taken seriously or that the elderly reporter will not be believed, especially sexual abuse in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities; and
  • Fear of retaliation from the abuser or the facility (according to the study, fear of retaliation has actually resulted in “learned helplessness,” and it may be the most common reason for failure to report abuse or neglect).

It is important to know that underreporting when it comes to nursing home abuse and neglect has two facets: underreporting or lack of reporting by the residents who have been subject to the abuse, and underreporting or failure to make proper reports by the nursing homes or other related facilities to proper authorities. Indeed, a PBS report emphasized that rates of abuse and neglect at nursing homes will not improve if facilities are not making reports to authorities and both state and federal agencies, yet it is possible that nearly 20 percent of all cases reported to the facility are not ultimately reported to authorities and oversight agencies as required.

Contact an Orange County Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Attorney

Do you have concerns or questions about nursing home abuse or neglect affecting an elderly loved one? One of the experienced Orange County nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers are here to help you. Contact the Walton Law Firm today to learn more about how we can assist you.


See Related Blog Posts:

Staffing Shortages and Infection Control Measures Still a Problem in Nursing Homes

Study Cites California’s Poor Protections for Elderly Adults


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