Families of Massachusetts Nursing Home Patients Shouldn’t Rely on State to “Investigate” Complaints of Abuse.  Call An Attorney, First.

I’ve warned my clients, friends, and readers of this blog in previous posts several times, but I know that I can’t say it enough, so I’ll say it again in today’s post:  If you believe that your loved one in a Massachusetts nursing home, Massachusetts nursing care facility, Massachusetts long-term care facility or “Massachusetts Memory Care Center” (the newest term that the nursing home industry has developed to capitalize on the exploding elderly population suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia), is being neglected, mistreated, or abused in any way, you cannot rely on your reporting it to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) to come in and address the problem rapidly or effectively.  They are not the cavalry – they are not going to come and “save the day” any time soon.

The Massachusetts DPH is part of a massive state bureaucracy.  It is over-worked, under-staffed, and while many of those who work there are dedicated to their jobs and sincerely care about their responsibilities, many more aren’t so dedicated.  Trust me, as a Massachusetts nursing home neglect lawyer, I know.  I’ve seen many such a lazy DPH staffer, in the many years that I’ve handled Massachusetts nursing home neglect cases.  But the average person who isn’t familiar with these matters doesn’t know this (they wouldn’t be expected to.)  They mistakenly think, if they suspect that their loved one is being neglected or abused, that if they threaten the nursing facility that they will report the matter to the state DPH, the nursing facility will react in fear and leap into action to immediately and permanently correct the neglect or abuse.

If you’re in such a position right now, you’d be a fool to believe that such a result will occur.  The fact is, most Massachusetts nursing facilities are fully aware that it takes the DPH months to even begin to act on a complaint against a Massachusetts nursing home, Massachusetts rehabilitation center or nursing facility.  More so, they know that once the DPH does get around to acting on the complaint, the nursing home will have long eliminated any evidence of the reported neglect or abuse, and as a result, in many instances the nursing facility will not be punished by the DPH.  And I’m sorry to say this, but you’d be very foolish to think that the standard technique (read:  ruse) that 99.9% of these facilities employ to assuage complaining family members, will be in any real way effective.

That technique?  Almost all Massachusetts long-term care facilities (nursing homes) employ a full-time “Nursing Director” and/or a “Medical Director”.  The Nursing Director is almost always a woman (from my experience, this is done in order to convey a maternal or caring appearance), and the Medical Directors, men or women, aren’t exactly the type of superior doctor that you’d want to be seen by (or they’d likely be working in a hospital setting.)   Nursing Directors are almost always employed to act as de facto PR representatives of the facility:  They’re primarily they’re to assure family members that their loved ones will be & are being cared for properly.  I’m sorry to tell you, but you can’t necessarily believe them.   The ugly truth is that the average Nursing Director working in nursing home has little to no idea what specific care is being provided to specific patients, and what those patients’ specific needs are.  That care is largely provided by low-wage “certified nursing assistants” (CNA’s.)  These are, unfortunately, people who took a very brief course in extremely basic items to assist nurses with:  I’m talking about changing bed sheets, emptying bed pans, taking a patient’s temperature.   It’s awful but true.

If you see suspicious signs that your loved one is not being care for properly, such as:

  • Weight loss
  • Depression or lack of interaction with you or others
  • Bed sores
  • Bruises
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Respiratory infections
  • Mental confusion
  • Stains on their clothing or bedding
  • Falls from a bed or wheelchair, or similar,

your first and best course of action should be to call an experienced Massachusetts nursing home lawyer or Massachusetts long-term care facility lawyer.  That is the person who can make things happen very quickly to both:  A) Correct the immediate problems or neglect, and B) Make sure that those problems (and others) don’t happen again.   Why can the right attorney do this?  Because, to dispense with technical legal jargon and to be frank, the nursing home knows that such an attorney can make their lives a legal hell, and cost them a lot of money with a lawsuit.  They know that it isn’t going to take months for an attorney to show up at their facility and initiate corrective action.  And that’s what both a nursing home patient that is being neglected or abused, and that patient’s family, needs:  A legal bodyguard, that will show up right away, and with the right experience and expertise to hold them accountable.

There is a considerable body of Massachusetts law that the right attorney and law firm – one that has years of proven, successful experience handling these cases – can bring to bear to correct these injustices.   But to accomplish this, you can’t just hire “any” attorney.  You need to hire a highly-rated Massachusetts nursing home neglect & abuse lawyer, who is a specialist in this field and who can demonstrate proven superior legal results.  If you feel you have doubts about the care of your loved one who is currently a resident of a Massachusetts nursing facility, we’d be happy to provide you a free consultation by phone.

In the meantime, keep a close eye out for the above warning signs.