According to the National Council on Aging, for every one elder abuse case that is reported, at least five additional cases are unreported. This is a devastating statistic, especially since more than 11 percent of elderly individuals are abused each year.
There are many reasons why elder abuse goes unreported. Oftentimes, elderly individuals cannot speak up for themselves or are afraid of the consequences of mentioning the abuse. Other times, family members and friends don't visit often enough to notice signs of abuse or simply do not know what those signs are.
However, actions by caregivers and nursing homes can also hide abuse. A recent investigation by the Sacramento Bee turned up many instances of nursing homes falsifying patient records. Unfortunately, this type of medical negligence is often only discovered when it is too late; discovered by nursing home abuse attorneys who are called in to recover compensation for wrongful death or a serious injury.
The most common ways that nursing homes falsify patient records include:
- Falsely marking that medication was given to a nursing home resident
- Covering up patient injuries or attempting to minimize liability by hiding the facts involved in a nursing home death
- Incorrectly or haphazardly filling in patient charts, often with completely inaccurate information
These actions, as well as others taken by nursing homes throughout California, can lead to serious injury and even death. By not keeping charts up-to-date or by writing false information, nursing home employees do not allow residents to receive the care they need. For example, a nurse was told to falsify the record of a resident who developed and died from bed sores / pressure ulcers at a nursing home - the facility's administrator had told the nurse to write that the resident had entered the nursing home with softened heels.
Holding Nursing Homes Accountable for Negligent and Criminal Actions
Nursing homes are afraid of the financial impact of a nursing home negligence lawsuit. Yet, instead of taking action to improve patient care and reduce the incidences of nursing home negligence, some nursing homes hide the problems.
While it is a misdemeanor to falsify a medical record, prosecutors rarely go after nursing homes and their employees. During the 1990s, only 180 citations were issued for "willful material falsification." In the last decade, the number of citations dropped to 29.
With such a small number of criminal prosecutions, how can you hold a nursing home accountable for the injuries it has caused your loved one? You may be able to bring a nursing home negligence lawsuit. Contact an experienced California nursing home abuse attorney to learn more.
Source: Sacramento Bee, "Falsified Patient Records Are Untold Stories of California Nursing Home Care," Marjie Lundstrom, Sept. 18, 2011.