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Detecting Nursing Home Abuse - Charleston, SC


This past March of 2014, a Rock Hill nursing home came under investigation for allegations that a nursing home staff member physically abused an elderly resident. The elderly resident at Westminster Health and Rehabilitation Center had complained on several occasions to her son of verbal and physical abuse she had endured at the facility.

In order to substantiate the claims of physical and verbal abuse, the resident’s son secretly installed an audio recorder in his mother’s room one weekend and captured multiple incidents of mistreatment and abuse. Allegations stemming from what was captured by the recorder that weekend include the caregiver (1) engaging in a heated conversation using the resident’s phone, (2) yelling at the elderly resident to “get up,” and (3) grabbing her arm to pull the resident out of bed in such a rough manner that it broke the skin and required stitches.

The March report comes only months after an investigation of the similarly named Westminster Towers facility in Rock Hill that allegedly failed to report sexual abuse by a nursing home staff member to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) for nearly one year. The DHEC is responsible for regulation and oversight for all South Carolina nursing home facilities, and South Carolina law requires incidents of abuse to be timely reported to the DHEC.

Proposed “Granny-Cam” Law

Reports of physical, sexual and verbal abuse are disturbingly abundant not only in the state of South Carolina, but across the nation’s nursing homes. While many states legally allow recording devices or “granny cams” to be installed in resident’s rooms, South Carolina has proposed, but not yet passed, such a bill. The Electronic Monitoring of a Resident’s Room in a Long-Term Care Facility bill, introduced by republican Senator Paul Thurmond, would allow residents to install “granny cams” and would further penalize any staff member or caregiver that interfered with the cameras. Family members concerned about a resident’s safety would have the ability to monitor their loved one when they cannot physically be there. The cameras would also serve as a deterrent to abuse and mistreatment.

How to Detect Nursing Home Abuse

“Granny cams” are not yet legal in the state of South Carolina; however even when and if they do become legal, it is important for family members to recognize the signs of mistreatment and abuse when a loved one is the resident of a nursing home or other long-term care facility. Abuse can happen anywhere outside of the resident’s room, and thus outside of the purview of the camera.

While there is no single indication of abuse, the National Center on Elder Abuse offers the following signs that upon further examination may indicate its presence:

  • Bruises, marks, broken/fractured bones, abrasions, and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment;
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse;
  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse;
  • Sudden changes in financial situations may be the result of exploitation;
  • Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect; and
  • Strained or tense relationships and frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person are also signs.
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