Fear of Retaliation Inhibits Nursing Home Complaints: A recent study posits that nursing home residents’ fear of reprisal from staff impacts the accurate detection, reporting, and investigation of nursing home malpractice.

A new survey reveals that vulnerable nursing home residents who need help or who have complaints about nursing home malpractice stay quiet out of fear of retaliation from staff, says a USA Today article.

The Long Term Care Community Coalition, a nonprofit organization that advocates for nursing home residents, conducted a study in which it surveyed 100 residents between 2017-2022 and examined complaint investigations by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The findings were recently released  in a report entitled, “‘They Make You Pay’: How Fear of Retaliation Silences Residents in America’s Nursing Homes.’” The report outlines residents’ complaints and fears in detail.

“You are dependent on staff members to provide you with basic care, continence, using the bathroom, the toilet, taking a shower,” explained lead researcher Eilon Caspi, assistant professor at the University of Connecticut Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention and Policy, “so you can feel very small, and there’s an inherent asymmetrical power… a power imbalance between residents and staff members.”

The complaints against staff ranged from allegations of staff-on-resident sexual abuse, to residents being abandoned in soiled conditions, to threats made against family members by staff for reporting issues of nursing home malpractice to the state or an ombudsman.

“It backfires on you,” said one northern California nursing home resident about voicing complaints. “Staff became aggressive.”

The article suggested that this silent suffering of residents may be a contributing factor in the underreporting of nursing home malpractice. This creates a vicious cycle in which a range of abuse and neglect issues in certain nursing homes go unaddressed and undocumented, allowing for unsuspecting family members to choose those very nursing homes as places to care for their elderly loved ones, leading to more incidents of nursing home malpractice, which in the worst circumstances require the intervention of wrongful death attorneys.

An aggravating issue illuminated by the report is that of overworked and underpaid staff, which was exacerbated by the pandemic. Understaffed nursing homes have long been a top cause of nursing home malpractice and staff-on-resident abuse. Overworked staff members come in contact with residents when they are exhausted or simply frustrated with working conditions, and abuse against the needy elders in their care can sometimes result. This abuse can take one of several forms:

  • Physical Abuse
  • Psychological Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Theft/Financial Abuse

All staff-on-resident abusive behavior violates federal and state laws and is considered nursing home malpractice. Any concerns about abuse or neglect should be reported to a nursing home malpractice or wrongful death attorney.

Advocating for Your Loved One against Nursing Home Malpractice

Your loved one living in a Philadelphia/PA or NJ nursing home should live free from fear and content in the knowledge that his or her rights will be upheld. Nursing home malpractice and wrongful death attorney Brian P. Murphy holds accountable Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, or New Jersey nursing homes for acts of negligence or elder abuse. As an experienced nursing home malpractice and wrongful death attorney, Brian Murphy is dedicated to protecting the health, security, and well-being of Philadelphia/PA and NJ nursing home residents. Should you find yourself needing to contact a nursing home malpractice and wrongful death attorney, call Brian Murphy today to discuss your legal options.