As shocking as it may seem, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) receives more than half a million reported instances of elder abuse on an annual basis. Even more disturbing, it is believed that thousands of other cases are either undiscovered or not reported. It would seem that elder abuse – especially in nursing home environments – is a pandemic in the United States. This is disgusting, tragic, and highly illegal.
The Nursing Home Reform Act
Congress first passed the Nursing Home Reform Act in 1987 as a means of ensuring that our elderly population is well cared for and treated with dignity and respect in nursing home settings. Any nursing facility that receives Medicaid or Medicare funding must adhere to the standards set forth in the act. As an example, the act states that nursing homes must “…provide services and activities to attain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychological well-being of each resident…”
While this and similar legislation have done a lot to improve nursing home conditions and protect the elderly, it’s clear that many problems still exist. Could your loved one be living as a victim of elder abuse? Read on to learn more.
Types of Elder Abuse
Elder abuse comes in many different forms, all of which are equally detrimental to an individual’s physical and psychological welfare. Elderly persons are especially vulnerable to abuse when they become dependent on residential nursing home care – primarily when they are plagued with grave physical ailments and/or dementia. The following are common examples of elder abuse in facilities like these:
- Bedsores/Infection – Because many elderly nursing home residents are bed bound for prolonged periods of time, they are at a high risk for developing bedsores and similar infections. When nursing staff fail to turn or reposition patients regularly, they will develop painful sores that can eventually lead to poisoning, illness, and death.
- Dehydration/Malnutrition – If staff members fail to ensure that residents are properly hydrated and fed with the proper nutrients, elderly persons can lose the ability to maintain strength and bodily infections, and grow more vulnerable to infections and viruses.
- Slipping/Falling – It is the responsibility of nursing staff to be available to assist the elderly as they move from one place to another, including restroom and bathing facilities. The nursing home must also be free from obstructions and spilled liquids in order to keep residents safe.
- Unnecessary Restraint – The use of unnecessary restraint or force is akin to false imprisonment.
- Physical/Sexual Abuse – Aggressive tactics may never be used as a form of punishment or display of power, and sexual contact between a nursing home caretaker and an elder is never considered consensual, safe, or acceptable.
- Neglect – Nursing facilities are required to provide proper medical care and attention to their patients. Neglect of these duties is considered to be a form of elder abuse and medical malpractice.
Prosecuting Elder Abusers
As soon as you believe that your loved one is being victimized or abused, you must begin gathering evidence and seeking out professional, legal help. Building your case begins by listening carefully to your loved one and taking what he or she says seriously. Take photographs of any bedsores, bruises, infections, abrasions, dirty bed sheets or facilities, hazards, or other conditions that you believe are linked to your loved one’s injuries and suffering. Take all information and evidence to an attorney that is experienced in fighting for patient rights and that has worked on elder abuse cases in the past. Time is of the essence.
For the safety of your loved one, it is your obligation to remove him or her from the nursing home as soon as you believe that abusive conditions exist.
The experts at Mintz Law Firm are knowledgable about the Nursing Home Reform Act and have served as advocates for many victims in elder abuse cases. Give us a call to start getting help for your loved one today.