Nursing Home Abuse in Arkansas – What Are Your Rights?


Kimberly Dawn Neumann

Placing 37th in AARP’s Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS) Scorecard, Arkansas ranks near the bottom for nursing home care. Over 525,000 adults over the age of 65+ live in Arkansas, 15,844 of which reside in nursing homes. This means there’s a high probability for incidents of nursing home abuse in Arkansas.

No one should accept that nursing home abuse exists in an Arkansas long-term care facility. There’s no excuse for such treatment, especially against the elderly. And in fact, the mistreatment of Arkansas nursing home residents is against the law.

Sadly, however, a shortage of qualified caregivers means that nursing home abuse statistics are increasing nationwide. Additionally, many nursing home residents are afraid to report abusive incidents, meaning numbers are potentially even higher.

As such, it’s important to be aware of the signs of nursing home abuse so you can spot and manage them before they get worse. Read on for how to handle suspected cases of nursing home abuse in Arkansas, and when you need legal help.

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Arkansas Nursing Home Resident Rights

Many people are unaware that nursing home residents are granted federal and state rights guaranteeing a certain level of care. In other words, it’s not just a courtesy, but an inalienable protection.

What is Duty of Care?

Nursing homes have a responsibility to protect their residents. This includes providing them with a safe, healthy, clean and home-like environment.

The facility must also treat each resident equitably. This means there must be no discrimination due to race, religion, nationality, or socioeconomic status.

Put together, these edicts constitute the “duty of care” that is a requirement for all nursing homes. But it’s not just a courtesy for Arkansas nursing homes to behave this way towards residents, it’s the law.

What Rights Do Nursing Home Residents Have in Arkansas?

The rights afforded to LTC residents in Arkansas are extensive and comprehensive. These protections come from the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, as well as the Arkansas state code.

Anyone moving into a LTC facility must receive these rights orally and in writing. This “Resident Bill of Rights” should also be visible and always available to anyone living in an Arkansas nursing home (Ark. Code § 20-10-1204).

(10) (A) The right to be free from physical or mental abuse, corporal punishment, involuntary seclusion, and any physical or chemical restraints imposed for purposes of discipline or convenience and not required to treat the resident’s medical symptoms.

Ark. Code § 20-10-1003

Arkansas state law provides a large amount of resident rights not listed above. Anyone living in an Arkansas nursing home should have protections in place to safeguard their wellbeing. Sadly, however, many find their rights frequently infringed upon.

How to Define Nursing Home Abuse

The definition of nursing home abuse is the intentional infliction of physical or emotional pain or injury of a resident. This includes willful deprivation by a caregiver or other person of services necessary to maintain mental and physical health.

Nursing home abuse in Arkansas can manifest in several ways, sometimes with several types happening simultaneously. The most prevalent are specific kinds of abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, financial) and nursing home neglect.

Knowing the difference is important so you can spot the signs immediately and effectively.

Physical Abuse 

Just as it sounds, physical abuse is inflicting bodily harm upon a nursing home resident.

Examples might include physical assault like punching, kicking, or slapping a patient. However, less outwardly violent actions such as the improper use of straps or ties also fall into this category.

This type of abuse is usually easier to spot since the “damage” shows up in a tangible manner. However, it’s not uncommon for caregivers or residents to try explaining away signs as normal aging frailty.

It is therefore very important to be on the lookout for overt manifestations of this type of abuse such as:

  • Bruises, black eyes, welts
  • Bleeding, cuts, lacerations
  • Sprains, dislocations, broken bones

Emotional Abuse

Nursing home emotional abuse is more subtle and generally harder to spot. It also remains underreported by residents for fear of retaliation from their caretakers.

Unfortunately this is not an unfounded worry. Research by the Long Term Care Community Coalition (LTCCC) finds that speaking up is frequently met with retribution. As such, many emotionally abused nursing home residents stay silent.

The result of this is that the actual number of elder abuse cases may be markedly higher than reports indicate.

Prime examples of psychological and emotional abuse include the following:

  • Humiliation
  • Harassment
  • Intimidation
  • Name-calling
  • Intentional embarrassment
  • Blaming for minor offenses
  • Separation from other residents

This kind of abuse takes a heavy mental toll on the elderly. That’s why it’s so important for nursing home residents to understand they have protected rights and don’t have to suffer.

Sexual Abuse

It may seem unfathomable that a nursing home resident would have to worry about sexual abuse. Though incidents are lower than other types of abuse, about 1.9% of all cases, it still happens in LTC settings.

Sometimes the perpetrators are staff, but other residents may also be culpable. Regardless of the source, no one should have to deal with any non-consensual touching and lewd conduct.

Examples of sexual abuse may include:

  • Sexual assault
  • Rape
  • Coercion to perform sexual acts
  • Inappropriate advances
  • Taking and distributing suggestive photos without consent

Financial Exploitation

Nursing home residents in Arkansas are particularly vulnerable to financial exploitation. This is because many older adults have savings, social security payments, fixed incomes, or retirement plans.

They’ve probably worked their whole lives to amass such fiscal security. Unfortunately, it also makes them prime targets for financial abuse.

Prime examples of financial abuse may include:

  • Unusual activity in an older adult’s bank account, including frequent unexplained withdrawals or transfers
  • Sudden unpaid bills or insufficient funds
  • Unexpected changes in wills or life insurance policies
  • Suspicious signatures on checks or outright forgery
  • Missing belongings

Sadly, residents often don’t realize these exploitations are occurring, especially if they trust their caregiver. So, it’s important to keep an eye out for warning signs.

Is Neglect Different From Nursing Home Abuse Different?

Though similar in harmful nature, nursing home neglect has a distinct characteristic that differentiates it from nursing home abuse.

While abuse stems from intentional harm, neglect is a result of inadequate care or apathy against the resident.

In other words, nursing home neglect is a form of negligence as opposed to flagrant mistreatment. Nonetheless, inaction or subpar care is still just as damaging as outright abuse to older residents.

Unfortunately, neglect is pervasive in nursing home settings as 94% of facilities face understaffing.

Nursing home neglect may show up as the following:

  • Not providing care, shelter, clothing, or food
  • Abandoning or ignoring an incapacitated or vulnerable adult
  • Not completing prescribed routine medical or wound care for residents
  • Failing to change residents after episodes of incontinence
  • Refusing to bathe residents
  • Turning off a call light or regularly not responding to resident requests

Unfortunately, owing to nationwide nursing home staffing shortages, cases of neglect in LTC continue to escalate.

Early Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

Knowing how to spot the signs of abuse is vital to curtail such behaviors.

While the symptoms depend on abuse type, here are some of the clues the Department of Justice suggests you should look for:

  • Physical signs of excessive punishment or restraints
  • Repeated and unexplained injuries, cuts, bruises, broken bones
  • Unusual changes in sleeping and eating patterns
  • Persistent bedsores
  • Dehydration or malnutrition
  • Emotional unrest or agitation
  • Personality changes, such as excessive apologizing
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Unexplained disappearance of funds or possessions
  • Unsanitary or unclean living conditions
  • Torn or dirty clothing or undergarments

The best way to prevent further abuse in Arkansas is to recognize the signs early and report suspicions immediately.

Ways to Report Nursing Home Abuse in Arkansas

Reporting abuse is an important step towards improving nursing home care quality. Every report contributes to the statistics of this burgeoning issue, and helps foster accountability among caretakers.

Some people in Arkansas actually have a duty to report. By law, health practitioners, police officers, social workers, clergy and more must report suspected abuse to social services. These mandatory reporting requirements are in place to serve as another protection against nursing home abuse in Arkansas.

For those who don’t fall into the mandated reporter category, reporting abuse is still a way to help vulnerable adults.

Where to Report Nursing Home Abuse in Arkansas

The first step is to bring any concerns to the nursing home’s management team. Arkansas nursing homes that want to keep their certifications should address any issues before they get worse.

However, as aforementioned, many facilities lack adequate staffing and filing a complaint may not be enough to affect positive resolution.

As such, you may want to involve government agencies to resolve cases of nursing home abuse in Arkansas.

Adult Protective Services (APS) is frequently the first point of contact for nursing home abuse complaints in many states. However, in Arkansas they’ll only help with adult and elder abuse within the community.

It’s the Office of Long Term Care that handles complaints for individuals residing in Arkansas nursing homes. It investigates nursing home abuse in Arkansas against entire facilities as well as individual allegations of abuse or neglect.

You may file complaints by telephone, fax, e-mail, letter, or electronically via the Provider Portal (for healthcare providers). The Office of Long Term Care’s information is as follows:

  • Phone: 1-800-582-4887
  • Fax: 501-682-8540, Attention Complaint Unit
  • E-mail: [email protected]
  • Letter: Complaints Unit, Office of Long Term Care, P.O. Box 8059, Slot S407, Little Rock, AR  72203-8059

Arkansas Ombudsman

Arkansas residents should also take advantage of the services at their local ombudsman office.

The Arkansas Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program consists of free advocates that ensure nursing home residents have proper care. They can help investigate and resolve complaints as well as assist residents in getting the care they need and deserve.

Each region has its own ombudsman to step in when there are issues of nursing home abuse in Arkansas. You can find your appropriate contact on the Arkansas Long-Term Care Ombudsman website.

How to Prevent Further Nursing Home Abuse in Arkansas

In addition to reporting, there are other steps that individuals can take to mitigate further episodes of abuse.

Doing due diligence on LTC facilities is one good way to minimize the risk. Ask frequent questions about staffing and turnover rate before admitting your loved one to a nursing home.

Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare tool allows you to check and compare different facilities in Arkansas. It will also give detailed information about the number of staff working at each home and recent inspection results.

When the Office of Long Term Care inspects nursing homes, they record any facility failures on a 2567 form. This form specifies each violated regulation committed by the facility, and also notes its scope and severity.

Every Arkansas nursing home must post its most recent 2567 where residents and visitors can see it easily. Make it a point to seek out and view these reports on a regular basis. It’ll help you know what transgressions to be on the lookout for.

Types of Damages in a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit

Even after following proper reporting protocol and doing facility research, you may wish to contact a nursing home abuse attorney. That’s because depending on the severity of the case, it may also make sense to seek compensation for the victim.

Generally there are two types of damages available in civil lawsuits surrounding nursing home abuse in Arkansas. These are compensatory damages and punitive damages.

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are monetary payments for “actual” damages resulting from the incident. The amount awarded depends on the proven harm, loss, or injury to the victim.

If the losses are somehow quantifiable—such as medical expenses or financial ruin from exploitation—they’re economic damages.

If the damages are less tangible—such as pain and suffering or emotional distress—they will fall under non-economic damages.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are slightly different in that their purpose is to punish the perpetrator, not cover any losses.

Punitive damages function as a deterrent against repeat offenses of dangerous or reckless behavior. If you believe your case deserves punitive damages, you definitely need an attorney to gather the evidence and present your case.

Arkansas Statute of Limitations

Time is always of the essence when filing nursing home abuse claims. Not only does your evidence stay fresh the sooner you present your case, but there are legal deadlines you must watch out for.

The statute of limitations for filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit in Arkansas is three years. The countdown starts from the date of the incident so it’s better not to wait long to start your claim.

This time limit also holds for wrongful death cases, but the clock starts from the date of the victim’s passing.

Do not miss this deadline because a court will dismiss your claim if it’s past-date.

LegalASAP Can Help You Find an Arkansas Nursing Home Lawyer

A home should be a safe space, not a place of distress. And it’s horrifying to imagine any older individual enduring the pain of nursing home abuse in Arkansas. Especially if it’s someone you love.

However, there are many ways to get help, with one of the best being to retain a lawyer.

If you find yourself in a situation where nursing home abuse is occurring, consider hiring an attorney to represent your case. LegalASAP’s network of 500+ law firms across the country can connect you with specialized nursing home lawyers in your area.

Since most nursing home lawyers work on contingency, it won’t cost you anything out of pocket. But it will give you more peace of mind knowing you have someone in your corner.

Because no one should be suffering where they live, especially our elders.

Kimberly Dawn Neumann

Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a multi-published NYC-based magazine and book writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications ranging from Forbes toCosmopolitan. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland, College of Journalism. For more,, Instagram @dancerscribe, and Twitter @KimberlyNeumann