Deciding how to care for an aging loved one can be excruciatingly difficult. For many, though, the only option they have is to place their loved one in a nursing home. There is nothing wrong with this decision, and, in fact, most nursing homes provide competent and compassionate care to their residents. Yet, not all is as it seems. Sadly, many individuals are subjected to nursing home abuse and neglect.

government audit found that one-fourth of all physical and sexual abuse perpetrated against nursing home patients go unreported. This is a massive statistic considering that nearly 1.5 million Americans reside in nursing homes. The audit, which is part of a larger, ongoing investigation, further indicated that about 80 percent of unreported abuse involves some sort of sexual abuse.

These numbers are troubling, especially since federal law requires these incidences to be reported. Investigators claim that Medicare, which has been tasked with ensuring patient safety in nursing homes, isn’t doing enough, as it has consistently failed to abide by federal statutes. The government, as well as nursing homes, need to ensure that they are hiring appropriate caregivers. These employees must be adequately monitored, and any incidences of abuse or neglect must be taken seriously.

Those who have suffered harm, whether physical, emotional, financial or some combination of the three, may be able to take legal action against the employee who harmed them, as well as the nursing home that employed that employee. If successful, a victim might be able to find accountability, closure and compensation for their damages. The process isn’t always easy, but with the assistance of a skilled legal professional, these individuals and their families may be able to obtain the justice they deserve, even when governmental safeguards have let them down.