Oregon’s 4.2 million residents living in the state have 130+ nursing homes available to them. Considering that seniors over age 65 make up 18% of the people living in Oregon, 130 isn’t enough. As more and more elderly citizens need long-term care (LTC), the possibilities for nursing home abuse in Oregon also increases.
On a positive note, Oregon has the lowest nursing home occupancy rate in the nation. At the same time, the average price for nursing home care in Oregon is over $10,000 a month. That’s the highest cost in the west coast region.
So, for older adults who do require such assistance, it’s vital to know their rights. Because even beyond finances, every senior deserves to have a safe place to live and adequate care.
With that in mind, if you or a loved one are experiencing nursing home abuse in Oregon, read on. There are laws in place to protect residents who require LTC, and people who want to hold the abusers responsible.
Oregon Nursing Home Resident Rights
Not only are there federal laws to protect nursing home residents nationwide, Oregon enacted state laws to protect people from abuse.
Some of the comprehensive nursing home resident rights that are part of Oregon law (OAR §411-054-0027) include:
- The right to dignified and respectful treatment
- The right to receive services in a way that protects privacy
- The right to be free from the use of physical restraints or inappropriate use of psychoactive medications
- The right to have medical records kept confidential
- The right to have access to and participate in social activities
- The right to manage personal financial affairs unless legal restrictions are in place
- The right to have a safe and home-like environment
Additionally, Oregon law requires that any facility providing LTC in the state must implement a residents’ Bill of Rights. That Bill of Rights includes those on the list above and many more. Each resident and their designated representative must receive copies of the resident’s rights and responsibilities before moving into the facility.
Anyone looking for an accredited nursing home can check compliance via the Oregon Licensed Long-term Care facility search tool. It’s updated every 24 hours so individuals can make sure facilities are following Department of Health rules and regulations.
What is Nursing Home Abuse in Oregon?
Generally, there are two forms of nursing home abuse and neglect in Oregon: intentional and negligent.
Intentional means the perpetrator meant to inflict harm, whereas negligent abuse stems from apathy that leads to inadequate care.
Sadly, 81% of all suspected abuse calls to Oregon Adult Protective Services in 2020 were concerning victims over age 65. While not all these cases were in nursing homes, it’s urgent people stay aware of potential abuse in LTC facilities.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
Abuse is legally prohibited in licensed nursing home facilities by the Department of Human Services in Oregon (OAR §411-085-0360).
Oregon classifies anyone over the age of 65 as a senior citizen. And all elderly residents have the right to be free from the following types of abuse.
Physical abuse occurs when a caregiver intentionally inflicts bodily harm on a nursing home resident. Almost 30% of recent investigations by Adult Protective Services are in this category.
Physical abuse might include violent assault like punching, slapping, kicking, or biting. The resulting damage is usually tangible and visible, so check in with your loved one to see if they’re safe.
Examples of physical abuse include:
- Painful shoving
- Excessive use of restraints
- Intentional refusal of resources
This is a more covert type of abuse that can be tough to uncover. That’s because many seniors are afraid to say anything for fear of retribution.
To further prove this, the Long Term Care Community Coalition (LTCCC) finds emotional abuse to be a top issue. In their They Make You Pay interviews of abused elders, many elders admit to staying silent rather than face retribution.
Examples of emotional abuse include:
Unwanted, non-consensual touching of a vulnerable adult is the definition of sexual abuse. Though many people cannot fathom this would happen to someone at a more advanced age, it still does.
In Oregon, sexual abuse constitutes:
- Sexual assault
- Coercion to perform sexual acts
- Inappropriate advances
Financial abuse is unfortunately all too common in nursing homes. This is owing to the fact that many seniors have assets such as social security, savings and retirement funds.
Regrettably this makes them prime targets for financial gouging by unscrupulous caretakers.
Examples of exploitation may include:
- Taking belongings or money from a resident’s room
- Unauthorized use of a nursing home resident’s credit, debit, or bank card
- Changing the recipients of a will or life insurance policy
Many seniors don’t even realize they’re draining their accounts because they trust their caregivers. This is a particularly nefarious way to take advantage of the elderly population. As such, it is an area to be very vigilant about monitoring.
Nursing Home Neglect in Oregon
Nursing home neglect is technically under the umbrella of abuse, but it lands in a slightly separate category. This is owing to the “intentional” versus “negligent” abuse delineation in the definition.
In most cases, but not all, neglect results from inaction or a subpar standard of care rather than malicious intent. However, make no mistake that it is still just as abusive for the victim.
A good way to understand neglect is to think about a caregiver ignoring the needs of a resident. This is withholding basic care and human interaction. Sadly, consistent understaffing issues with many nursing homes means elder neglect is becoming a bigger issue.
For context, examples of nursing home neglect might include:
- Failing to provide shelter, clothing, or food
- Letting residents remain in bed too long, such that bed sores develop
- Not performing prescribed necessary medical or wound care for residents
- Not providing walkers and wheelchairs to those with mobility issues
- Neglecting to bathe residents, or change those with incontinence
- Turning off a call light
Common Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse in Oregon (and elsewhere) may manifest in a myriad of ways. But there are common symptoms to be aware of that the National Center on Elder Abuse outlines as red flags.
Possible physical signs of nursing home abuse to look out for include:
- Visible bruises, cuts, or broken bones
- Sores or burn marks
- Unexplained Sexually Transmitted Diseases
- Dirty living conditions and poor personal hygiene
- Rapid weight loss and inadequate nutrition
Emotional abuse may show up as:
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Lack of communication
- Fear or anxiety
- Alterations on behavior or personality
- Sleep issues
Try to keep lines of communication open if you have a loved one in an Oregon nursing home. You want them to feel comfortable sharing openly with you about the kind of care they are (or are not) receiving.
Many seniors hesitate to share their thoughts because they just figure “this is how it is,” or they don’t want to cause problems. They may also be afraid things will get worse for them if they speak their mind. Make sure they know you’re a safe space and that they can be honest with you.
How to Report Nursing Home Abuse in Oregon
If the abusive situation is unsafe, the first step is always to call 911 and ensure your loved one’s safety. In cases where the abuse is ongoing or cumulative, however, there are several ways you can report nursing home abuse in Oregon.
Anyone suspecting abuse or neglect of an elder should report it by calling Oregon’s toll-free hotline at 1-855-503-SAFE (7233). This hotline and their website stays open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
While everyone who’s able to report abuse is encouraged to do so, for certain individuals it’s a legal requirement. Professionals who are considered mandatory reporters in Oregon include physicians, physical therapists, clergy, social workers, nurses, and more.
Anyone in direct contact with nursing home residents as part of their employment is likely on the list (ORS §124.050). They should report their suspicions to the Department of Human Services.
LTC facility abuse claims may also go to the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) Nursing Facility Complaint Unit. Contact by phone at 1-877-280-4555.
Finally, the Oregon Long-Term Care Ombudsman office provides advocacy for nursing home residents in the state. Their services are free to residents as well as family members, staff, and the general public. The office will investigate cases of nursing home abuse in Oregon, but they’re also available for advice.
To reach them call 1-503-378-6533 (1-800-522-2602 toll free).
After reporting the abuse to authorities, you need legal protection with a nursing home attorney to be compensated for your damages. If you choose not to fight back, you may miss out on a settlement that can help your loved one recover from abuse.
What Information Should You Collect Before Reporting
The more information you have available when you are ready to file a report, the faster authorities can examine the case.
While you don’t need to have all of the following, try to get as much of this info as possible:
- Name and age of the victim
- Any known mental or physical impairments
- Name, address, and phone number of the nursing home
- Your contact information and relationship to the abused
- Facts about what happened
- Date(s) of the abusive event
- Lists of other agencies with whom you may have contact (such as law enforcement or social services)
- Contact information for any witnesses
- Details about the alleged perpetrator(s) including name, age, physical description, and contact info if available
Anything you can gather will help accelerate the investigative progress.
Gathering information will also help your nursing home attorney build a strong case for compensation from their damages. One of the main reasons nursing home lawsuits don’t qualify is a lack of information on the case.
Types of Damages You Can Receive in Oregon
Oregon allows you to seek compensation for economic, non-economic, and punitive damages, depending on the circumstances of your case.
When damages are compensatory in nature, they cover measurable losses from the abuse.
If the losses are quantifiable for things such as covering medical bills or lost funds from financial exploitation, they’re considered economic damages.
Oregon does allow victims to sue for punitive damages, but the objective of these awards is to punish the perpetrator. The idea is to make the financial remuneration painful for anyone who dares to inflict such egregious intentional harm.
The catch with punitive damages is they do require proof of malice and intent. So, anyone claiming these must have a strong case in place to be successful. It’s highly recommended to hire an attorney for cases of punitive damages to strengthen your argument for malice and intent.
Statute of Limitations in Oregon
The deadline for filing a case for nursing home abuse in Oregon is two years from the date of the abuse. In the case of wrongful death, that statute of limitations extends to three years from the abuse’s discovery date.
However, in either case, it is wise not to wait. You want to file a case as soon as possible before evidence disappears or involved parties forget details.
Get the Best Results With a Nursing Home Abuse Attorney
Oregon has a legal assistance program for adults 60+ who struggle with great social or economic need. This includes priority given to individuals struggling with issues around LTC, including nursing home abuse in Oregon.
Unfortunately, most older adults who really need assistance won’t speak up for themselves. If you are trying to help someone facing nursing home abuse, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. LegalAsap’s network of 500+ law firms across the United States can connect you with a nursing home lawyer in Oregon. All consultations are free.
Remember, the Bill of Rights for nursing home residents in Oregon includes the right to a safe and home-like environment. Get the help you need to make sure your loved one has just that.
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 to Cosmopolitan. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland, College of Journalism. For more, visit: www.KDNeumann.com, Instagram @dancerscribe, and Twitter @KimberlyNeumann