When Neglect or Abuse Happens

I think my mother is being neglected by the nursing home.  She's always lying in urine and she never seems to be turned or repositioned.  She has bedsores on her rear-end that go to the bone. What can I do?

If you suspect neglect or abuse in a nursing home or assisted living facility, you should first do everything possible to remove the harm.  Complain to a nurse, her supervisor, the director of nursing, and the administrator until the harm has been removed and your mother is safe.  If your mother is in immediate jeopardy, you should instruct the facility to obtain immediate medical attention by transferring her to the hospital. 

        Once the harm has been removed and your mother is safe, contact me to discuss what happened and how it affected your mother so we can discuss her rights and yours.  You should call as soon as possible -- time is of the essence.  Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are increasingly relying on arbitration provisions that rob you and your loved one of access to a court of law when a patient is injured or killed as a result of neglect or abuse.  Virginia law provides a limited number of days after an injury or death within which to opt-out of an arbitration provision and access the court system, so we will need to act quickly.  We will also need to investigate the neglect or abuse before witnesses, documents, or conditions are destroyed, disappear, are intentionally altered, or simply change with time.  For example, we may need photographs of severe pressure ulcers (bedsores) in order to preserve evidence of their appearance at critical times.  None of this can occur unless we meet quickly to discuss your concerns and develop a plan of action.

        In addition, you may want to contact the adult protective services (APS) section of your local department of social services, the regional ombudsman, and the Virginia Department of Health for them to investigate the neglect or abuse.  These agencies frequently have access immediately to documents and witnesses that may not be available when we conduct our investigation.  If you want to file a formal complaint with the Virginia Department of Health, you will need to mail or fax a Consumer Complaint Report, along with any supporting documents, to:

Complaint Intake
Office of Licensure and Certification
Virginia Department of Health
9960 Mayland Drive, Suite 401 
Richmond, VA  23233-1463
Telephone: (804) 367-2106
Toll Free: 1-800-955-1819
Fax:  (804) 527-4503

You can also report neglect or abuse by telephone by calling the Virginia Department of Health.  The regional ombudsman and local Department of Social Services should also be contacted when you observe or suspect neglect or abuse.

I want to get you involved quickly. How can I contact you?

You can contact me in any way convenient to you.  The Contact Us page contains telephone and fax numbers, which you are welcome to use.  The Contact Us page also contains an Information Form, which you can complete, click Submit, and I will receive by email.  I or a member of my staff will contact you in response.  Easy driving directions are also contained on the Contact Us page.  Time delays can affect your claim, so you should contact us as soon as possible. 

I can't make it to your office. Where can we meet?

We can meet at any location convenient to you.  My office is always available, but I would be able to travel to meet with you at a nursing home, assisted living facility, hospital, your house, a local restaurant, or at some other convenient location.  As we work together, I will always try to make meetings convenient with any  schedule and travel limitations you may have.  

Will I be charged to discuss my concerns with you?

I do not charge for initial conferences.  I provide a free case review to determine what happened so we both can learn more about your concerns.  An initial meeting also lets us meet and become comfortable working together.  

Once we decide to investigate, what happens next?

I obtain and review the records of the nursing home or assisted living facility, as well as records from other health-care providers.  I review the records personally and have them reviewed by a qualified health care professional.  The health care professional and I then determine if a claim against the facility is appropriate.  If so, a claim letter is sent to the nursing home or assisted living facility, and the facility‚Äôs insurance company usually assumes handling of the claim.  The claim can be settled, or a lawsuit can be filed if the matter is not resolved to your satisfaction.