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Preventing Elder Abuse

Image of broken glasses.The actual incidence of abuse is low in nursing homes, but just the thought that it could occur frightens residents and families alike. While nursing home residents may be vulnerable, they are not without protection.

The Nursing Home Residents' Bill of Rights states that residents have the right to live in nursing homes free from any type of abuse. Nursing homes, by law, must work to prevent abuse and the facility must report any suspected abuse so independent investigations can be completed.

Policies and Procedures

  • Maryland law requires nursing homes to develop, and put into practice, policies and procedures to prohibit the abuse and neglect of residents.
  • Nursing homes may not knowingly hire anyone who has been convicted of abusing or neglecting a resident. The nursing home must have a criminal background check performed for all staff.
  • Nursing homes may not knowingly hire an aide who has had a finding entered into the State Nurse Aide Registry that alleges resident abuse or neglect or the misuse of a resident's money.

Abuse Reporting Requirements

Any staff member who believes a resident has been abused must, by Maryland law, promptly report the abuse to at least one of the following:

  • The appropriate law enforcement agency (the local Police Department)
  • The Office of Health Care Quality at 410-402-8201 or download an online complaint form
  • The local or state Ombudsman Program 410-887-4200

Any alleged abuse must be reported within three days of learning of the alleged abuse. The agency that has been notified of the alleged abuse must notify the other two agencies. Each agency will investigate allegations of abuse. If the report of alleged abuse is substantiated, the Office of the Attorney General Medicaid Fraud Unit or the State's Attorney's Office will prosecute the accused offender or offenders.

Suspected Abuse

If you believe any resident has been a victim of abuse, report it immediately to the nursing home administrator, director of nursing or social worker. You may also contact any of the agencies responsible for investigating abuse—the local police, the Office of Health Care Quality or the local Ombudsman.

After Reported Abuse

  • Nursing homes must complete a thorough internal investigation of all allegations of abuse as well as report abuse to the appropriate agencies.
  • Nursing homes must act to prevent further incidents of abuse both during and after the investigation.
  • A penalty of up to $1,000 may be imposed on any nursing home that fails to report alleged abuse within three days of learning of the alleged abuse.
  • Nursing homes are mandated to provide annual in-service training to staff about the types, signs and symptoms, and the prevention of abuse.

Prevention Tips

Nursing home residents with frequent visitors are less vulnerable than others. Knowledge is the best defense. Information to help you and your older relatives and friends understand the signs of abuse and ways to prevent abuse of older persons is available.