Nursing home residents are among the most vulnerable in our society. Despite being in what is supposed to be a controlled, caring environment, they can be subjected to physical, mental, financial and verbal abuse. There are, however, laws in place to stop abuse of vulnerable adults in Alaska.
In Alaska, Adult Protective Services works to prevent harm to vulnerable adults. Within the law, these are people over 18 years of age who are, because of physical infirmity, mental deficiency or illness, addiction or other incapacity, unable to look after themselves. By definition, then, this includes residents of nursing homes.
Under the law, harm is defined as abuse, abandonment, neglect or exploitation. To break it down further in very simple terms:
Of course vulnerable people can be exploited by practically anyone who comes into their lives, including friends, relatives, bankers, etc. This type of abuse and exploitation can also occur in nursing homes.
Any administrator or employee of a nursing home in Alaska can be held liable if a resident is being abused.
Under the law, if you suspect that an adult who is vulnerable has been abused, abandoned, neglected (even in cases of self-neglect) or exploited, you have a legal duty to report that abuse within 24 hours of discovering it. A report must be made to Adult Protective Services immediately in order to protect the rights and safety of the person who is being victimized.
When you make a report to Adult Protective Services, they will investigate to determine if abuse has occurred. Any report of abuse, abandonment, neglect (or self-neglect), or exploitation will remain confidential. The person making the report does not have to worry about being identified. These reports are then used to conduct an investigation and determine if charges are warranted. The goal is, in all instances, to protect vulnerable adults from any form of abuse. You can even make an anonymous report.
People who suspect adult abuse in nursing homes or other settings should not fear repercussions when they report possible abuse. For this reason, the law (Alaska Statute 47.24.120) specifies that anyone who makes a report of senior abuse, be it in a nursing home or in another setting, provided that they make the report in good faith and genuine belief that abuse is occurring, will not be liable to prosecution or other forms of retaliation.
If you are a senior who is being abused, there is help under the law. If you know of a senior who is being abused in his or her nursing home, or for that matter in another setting, then you can make a report without fear of repercussion. In fact, it is your duty to do so. The law exists to protect seniors from abuse, and also to protect people who report abuse of seniors in nursing home settings and in other circumstances.
A nursing home abuse attorney in Alaska can offer further advice as to what you should do in cases of nursing home abuse of seniors. Everyone should feel safe in their declining years, and no one should ever be afraid to report instances of abuse, because the law protects both the abused person and the person who reports the abuse.