Tales From Our Files: Nursing Home Abuse Is A Crime

A substantial portion of our clients are seniors who have unfortunately been neglected or abused while living as patients in a nursing home.  While the resulting harm may prove to be the same, there is a stark difference between the concepts of “negligence” and “abuse” in a nursing home setting.  Nursing home staff members are considered “negligent” if they fail to employ proper precautions in keeping their residents safe.  This can take many forms: accidentally dropping a patient; failing to dispense proper medication; giving a patient with a recognized choking risk foods that are notoriously hard to swallow, (like a hot dog or “sticky” bun).  “Abuse” on the other hand is a more sinister phenomenon which may also prove to be criminal in nature. One such act of cruelty was recently brought to our attention for redress. Suspicious that aides were abusing their loved one, our client secretly placed a “nanny cam” in their grandmother’s room.  The camera recorded video only, (as recording audio without the express permission of the participants is itself a crime).  Sure enough, the hidden video demonstrated aides brutally manhandling, slapping and pulling the hair of an aged and defenseless Alzheimer patient.  As a result of exposing this reprehensible conduct, the aides were promptly dismissed and criminally prosecuted.  Our clients promptly sought to remove their relative from the facility and we prosecuted a civil claim for money damages as a result.

Do I recommend that hiding a camera is always the appropriate solution?  No.  Nor would most facilities welcome such clandestine efforts. Rather, ordinary vigilance by family members is the key to assuring quality care and a safe living environment. By being intimately involved in the care of your loved one, you serve notice that you are closely watching what goes on.  You are also ensuring that the nursing home staff are taking the proper precautions to keep their residents safe.

If you suspect that your loved one has been abused while a resident of a nursing home, you should promptly consult an attorney to review your options.

Dino M. Colucci, Esquire, is the founder of Colucci, Colucci, Marcus & Flavin, P.C., a law firm dedicated to representing victims of neglect. For many years he has lectured and served as an adjunct Professor of Law at Suffolk University Law School.  He has also been consistently named as a “Super Lawyer” by his peers as published by Boston Magazine.