Elder abuse and neglect is a serious public heath challenge in the United States. Some of our most vulnerable citizens live in fear of being abused and neglect by the same people who are supposed to be caring for and protecting them. One of the challenges of addressing elder abuse is the fact that it is widely underreported due to their fear of reprisal. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that elder abuse, neglect and exploitation is experienced by about 1 in 10 people age 60 and over who live at home.
The CDC has identified six different types of abuse that is suffered by our elders over age 60 which include:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Financial abuse
Nursing home residents’ rights and protections
Most nursing homes receive funding from Medicare and Medicaid. Accordingly, there are several, specific rights and protections that every nursing home resident enjoys under federal law. When nursing homes violate these protections, they are subject to consequences. The nursing home must explain these rights to patients and provide them to the patient in writing in a language that they understand. The patient it turn acknowledges that they have received this information.
Nursing home residents have the right to be treated with respect, to participate in activities, to be free from discrimination and above all, to be free from abuse and neglect. For a complete list of all of the rights and responsibilities of a nursing home resident, visit Medicare.gov.
Nursing home staff are mandatory reporters
Nursing home employees are protected under federal law from penalties for reporting incidents of abuse or neglect in nursing homes, but they are also required under federal law to report no later than 2 hours after forming the suspicion that they have a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed against a resident. Under federal law the employee must report their suspicion to law enforcement and to the state agency responsible for oversight of nursing care facilities. In Tennessee, that agency is the Tennessee Department of Health.
If you would like to see a list of monthly disciplinary actions taken by professional health boards in Tennessee, the TN DOH keeps a database of the reports on its website.
The penalty for failing to report is a monetary penalty of up to $300,000 and possible exclusion from participation in any federal health care program as an “excluded individual.”
In a 2014 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service/ Office of the Inspector General, Nursing Facilities’ Compliance with Federal Regulations for Reporting Allegations of Abuse and Neglect, it was discovered that 85 percent of nursing facilities reported at least one allegation of abuse or neglect to the OIG in 2012. The report also found that 76 percent of nursing facilities maintained policies that address Federal regulation for reporting allegations of abuse or neglect, and the results of the investigations. Sixty-one percent of nursing facilities had documentation incompliance with federal regulations, and only 53 percent of allegations of abuse and neglect and the subsequent investigations results were reported as required under federal law.
The OIG recommended that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) ensures that nursing facilities maintain policies related to reporting allegations of abuse and neglect, notify employees of their obligation to report suspicions of crimes and to report the results of investigations in a timely manner to the appropriate individuals.
A research brief published by the National Center on Elder Abuse said the following: “Studies of the process states use to detect, investigate, resolve and prevent elder mistreatment in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and board and care homes is deeply flawed. As a result, the estimates of elder abuse and neglect are lower than the actual prevalence, and the process must be strengthened to protect residents.”
If you are visiting your loved one in a nursing home and you suspect that they or other residents are not being cared for properly, be sure to report what you see.
Do you suspect that an elderly loved one is being abused or neglected? You are welcome to call the compassionate nursing home abuse and elder abuse lawyers at the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm. We have the resources, skill and legal talent to fully investigate your claim. You are welcome to call (615) 425-2500 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation with us in Nashville, Hendersonville or Knoxville. We will explain your options and what legal recourse is available for you to pursue justice and recover financial damages on behalf of your loved one and your family. We fight for you!