Nursing Home Abuse: What Are Your Rights?
There are hundreds of nursing homes in Ontario. The majority of them employ professional, responsible and kind employees. Unfortunately, some nursing homes are run in a negligent manner. According to the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, reported incidents of staff-on-resident abuse increased significantly over the last decade. Recently, The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care called upon the members of the military to help the nursing home staff during the pandemic. The report released by the Canadian Armed Forces as to the unsanitary conditions of the nursing homes and the neglect of the residents was nothing less than shocking. Abuse and neglect of elders in nursing homes are too often unreported mainly because of the fear of reprisal.
The word “abuse” goes beyond the traditional definition of abuse. One may think that abuse is limited to physical abuse, verbal abuse as well as financial abuse however, elder abuse can take other forms such as neglect from poorly trained nursing home staff members. Signs of nursing home neglect may include malnutrition, soiled diapers, bed sores, over or under medication, and filthy conditions or general uncleanliness. In a report published in 2019 by the Ontario Long-Term Care Association, 90% of residents had some form of cognitive impairment, 86% needed extensive help with activities such as eating or using the washroom and more than half of residents were over the age of 85. They are dependent on the nursing facility management and its nursing staff for their food, medicine, medical care and for assistance with virtually every daily activity. Our society’s most vulnerable require adequate care.
If the actions or inactions of the nursing home staff or ownership result in injury or wrongful death, you could be entitled to sue in negligence and/or for breach of contract. In Ontario, long-term care homes must follow a law called the Long-Term Care Homes Act. It includes a Residents’ Bill of Rights. Inspectors from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care must enforce the Bill of Rights during their yearly inspections or when someone makes a complaint.
If you suspect that a family member is being mistreated and abused in a nursing home, it’s important to report this abuse to the police and seek legal advice.