Nursing Home Harassment Claims: A Two-Sided Issue

Harassment and abuse has long plagued the nursing home industry. Claims of harassment are becoming out of control across the country – incidents targeting one of the most vulnerable populations in the United States have risen sharply over the past decade. Contrary to common beliefs, however, is the fact that nursing home harassment comes from both facility staff and residents alike. In addition to protecting facilities, staff, and residents with nursing home insurance, facility managers must understand the nature of harassment claims, then take the steps needed to mitigate these incidents. By doing so, they can protect the safety and dignity of America’s seniors.

Alarming Statistics: Nursing Home Harassment and Abuse

According to Nursing Home Abuse Justice, an online clearinghouse dedicated to protecting the rights of seniors, about one in every 10 seniors have experienced some form of harassment or abuse. In one study, almost 25% of all nursing home residents reported at least one abuse incident, while other studies suggest that these incidents often go unreported. Still, high numbers of harassment claims are coming from nursing home facilities. In 2008, of the 269,000 complaints registered with the U.S. Administration on Aging, about 78% of claims were related to care in nursing homes. That percentage has only gone up in subsequent years. Surveys conducted within the nursing home staffing community have turned up alarming statistics, including:

  • Nearly 90% of survey respondents have either witnessed or suspected harassment and/or abuse in the nursing homes where they worked.
  • Almost 50% of nursing home staff have admitted to harassing or abusing elders in their care.

Residents and staff members are also at risk of harassment – including physical, mental, and sexual harassment – from other residents of long-term care facilities. In fact, recent studies suggest that nursing home residents are more likely to be harassed or abused by other residents than they are by staff members. Staff of nursing homes have reported aggressive physical and sexual behavior among residents; this behavior is often compounded by a sharp increase in residents with cognitive declines like dementia.

While nursing home insurance protects facilities and their staff from many liability exposures, even these policies may not be enough to provide coverage against excessive harassment claims, especially if a resident or staff member is injured.

Liability Exposures Regarding Harassment in Nursing Homes

Nursing and other long-term care homes have a duty to provide residents with safe accommodations and competent medical support. They also must provide safe working conditions for their employees. If a resident or staff member is harassed, either by a fellow resident, a family member of a resident, or other staff members, the harassed party may wish to file a harassment or abuse claim.

Often, courts have sided with harassment victims, ruling that employers did not do enough to prevent harassment or to implement measures that would remedy harassment or abuse at the hands of others. Even with nursing home insurance, defending against a harassment claim can be costly. Legal fees, judgements, and settlements cost the nursing home industry millions of dollars each year, and these claims drive up insurance costs.

Protecting Residents and Staff Against Harassment

Regardless of who is responsible for committing an act of harassment or abuse, it is critical that nursing home facility managers take the steps needed to reduce these risks. Proven strategies for reducing harassment and abuse claims include:

  • Training staff members to identify signs of harassment and abuse.
  • Training caregivers on procedures for dealing with residents with dementia.
  • Managerial oversight of facility operations, including monitoring common areas.
  • Providing residents and staff with reporting mechanisms for claims of harassment.
  • Ensuring adequate staffing levels in all phases of the facility’s operations.
  • Conducting thorough background checks on all prospective employees prior to hiring. These checks should include criminal, financial, and work history assessments.

Nursing home insurance is the foundation of risk management for long-term care facilities. With this insurance, and with an eye toward improving safety of residents and staff members, nursing home facilities can continue to provide competent, compassionate care for America’s aging population.

About Caitlin Morgan

Caitlin Morgan specializes in insuring assisted living facilities and nursing homes and can assist you in providing insurance and risk management services for this niche market. Give us a call to learn more about our programs at 877.226.1027.