Personal Injury & Nursing Home Abuse
Pittsburgh and Western PA

Fear of Retaliation Stops Nursing Home Complaints: Study

Senior Caucasian woman in a nursing home looking through windows with a concerned look on her face.

Unreported incidents mean elder abuse and neglect are more common than realized.

Despite a slew of federal and state laws guaranteeing elder rights and protection, a significant percentage of residents say they are too afraid to speak up about nursing home neglect and abuse. According to a recent study, almost 20 percent of residents believe that if they were to file a complaint, they would face severe retaliation by those with a duty to care for them.

The result of this, unfortunately, is that abuse and neglect go unreported while the psychological, emotional, and physical toll of mistreatment and indignity deteriorate residents' health.

The National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center summed up the situation well: "Fear of retaliation is one of the most common reasons residents do not want to pursue a complaint and disclose their identity. Since residents live in a facility and rely on staff for their basic needs, their fear of retaliation cannot be overemphasized."

Why some residents don't file complaints

While the majority of nursing home residents - about two-thirds - say they are not afraid to make a complaint or report abuse, 19 percent are too scared of retaliation to speak up when something is wrong.

When asked why they didn't report incidents, residents interviewed for the study said:

  • "There's a lot of retaliation."
  • "I don't want to get folks in trouble."
  • "I heard a girl say that they know how to get even. So, I try to keep my mouth shut."
  • "They would send you to someplace bad for rehabilitation."

What nursing home retaliation looks like

A new study by a UConn gerontologist delves into the components of this type of fear among nursing home residents. The study looked at four aspects of this concern: fear of retaliation, allegations of threats of retaliation, perceived retaliation, and confirmed retaliation.

Researchers found that fear is mostly driven by the power imbalance between staff and nursing home residents. In particular, residents said they did not voice their care concerns or file complaints because they were afraid it would result in:

  • Eviction.
  • Collective punishment.
  • Physical violence.
  • Delayed care
  • Reduced preventative care.
  • Aggressive confrontations, yelling, and threats.
  • Poor care and attention to medical conditions.
  • Overcharging for services.
  • Limiting food and water.
  • Sabotage.
  • Intentional harm disguised as accidents.

Residents have a right to report abuse

Reporting nursing home abuse and neglect without fear of reprisal is a legal right.

Specifically, Pennsylvania says that: "No person shall discriminate or retaliate in any manner against any consumer or relative or guardian of a consumer, any employee of a long-term care facility, or any other person because of the making of a complaint or providing of information in good faith."

However, due to a lack of investment in enforcement, it's common for there to be delays in investigations and reports to go unresolved. This is not the case, though, when the resident or their family is represented by an effective nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer who knows how to get results in Pennsylvania.

Our lawyers fight for justice and accountability

It's not just residents who are worried about reprisal. Family and friends who are concerned about a resident's well-being may be reluctant to report abuse because they are fearful of retaliation against their loved one. Facility staff may be afraid to file a complaint, too. Workers who depend economically upon the facility for their livelihood could fear losing their jobs if they complain.

People concerned their rights are being violated or fear that they will be violated should contact an experienced nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer right away. Lawyers with track records of success help ensure the law is followed and vulnerable people are protected by it.

If you believe your loved one has suffered abuse, neglect, or retaliation in a Western Pennsylvania nursing home, contact Hal Waldman & Associates for a free consultation to see how an experienced Pittsburgh nursing home negligence lawyer can help. There are no obligations, just honest answers about your potential legal options. Don't wait—contact us today.

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