Elderly people are being abused daily in nursing homes across the country, leading more and more concerned loved ones to hire investigators to intervene.
According to Carey Torrice, a private investigator with Eye Spy Detective Agency in Fraser, Michigan, her firm receives requests for elder abuse investigations every day.
“Due diligence can fail. You may think that you have done all of your research when finding the perfect nursing home for your loved one. However, many times the person that signs you up is not the person that has daily contact with the patient,” Torrice said.
Thomas Martin, author of “Seeing Life through Private Eyes” and a former federal agent with the U.S. Department of Justice who owns a private investigation firm in Newport Beach, California, described his investigative work.
“When I walk in and say, ‘Hi, I’m Tom Martin and I’m a private investigator; I’m here to check on Mary Lou Smith,’ sometimes the staff immediately gets flustered and literally hold up their hands in front of me as if trying to bar me,” he said.
Martin then proceeds to the patient’s room, sometimes with apprehensive employees following him. Martin’s approach does not allow the staff the opportunity to straighten the patient’s room, change the bed sheets or sit the patient in a chair.
Torrice said visits by those from her firm are confidential and that investigators are not required to reveal the purpose of their visit.
“As a representative of the family, an investigator has a right to walk in and check on someone,” Torrice said.
The Oakland Press reported, “Once in the facility, an investigator might look at the condition of the bed sheets, the order of the room, the weight of the patient, and also any injuries such as cuts, bruises or broken bones. They may look for missing patches of hair or bite marks.”
Investigators also observe patient interactions with staff. If a patient comes across as nervous, timid or scared, that raises a red flag, Torrice said.
“Then we would go and talk to the patient. We ask them how they are doing. We ask if they have eaten or taken their medicine. We try to measure their well being. Essentially we are looking for any disorientation,” Torrice said.
A private investigator can offer loved ones quite a bit of information, as well as peace of mind. Martin’s agency charges $150 per hour for nursing home investigations, although he performs welfare checks free for standing clients.
Martin suggests investigators look for:
• The ability of the private investigator to testify in a court of law. An investigator should be able to provide court-admissible evidence.
• A licensed investigator.
• An investigator with clearly defined fees.
Martin also recommends going with your gut. If an investigator makes you uncomfortable, continue to look for one who does not.