Nursing Homes Face Funding Cuts in Light of Incidents of Elder Abuse
Written by Jeff Meyer on December 7, 2015
In a growing national concern, a prolific number of elder abuse cases are emerging in the public consciousness in the recent years. Per the National Center on Elder Abuse, elder abuse entails any intentional or neglectful act causing undue risk or actual harms to any elderly individual dependent upon or in a trust relationship with a non-elder individual. Problematically from a protective and investigative standpoint, elder abuse is perpetrated frequently without detection when the victims have a dementia, which is a severe impairment of the brain which leads to loss of memory and erratic behavior that afflicts over five million Americans over the age of 65.
While elder abuse can take place in homes, it can also happen in nursing homes, which over three (3) million elderly Americans call home. However, transparency can prove problematic for nursing home operators in violation of the law, as reports of incidents of elder abuse ultimately affect many facilities’ overall access to federal funding. Likewise, cases of egregious abuse or financial abuse are common left unreported by nursing home staff members in the interest of retaining their jobs by way of covering for nursing home owners and officials. However, in certain cases, reported instances of abuse by other patients impact the ability of lower-income individuals to remain in their current residence, thus adding another wrinkle to the unresolved issue of addressing elder abuse in American society.
An Alabama Elder Left in Harm’s Way
For instance, Alice McAllister, 88, resided at a Trussville, Alabama nursing home for eight (8) years. But after two (2) serious charges of elder abuse, McAllister’s former nursing home will lose its Medicaid funding and be shut down in January. One of the charges involved an allegedly drunken man, who was accused of sexually assaulting his elderly mother at the facility. Instead of confronting the man, the attending nurse left the room to seek help, thus leaving the elderly patient in the clear and present danger. As a result, McAllister’s daughter, Kathleen Marino, had to move her mother to another nursing home residence quickly and without knowledge of the risk of the facility’s future potential closure. Eventually, Marino was presented with the option of placing her mother in another nursing home in Pell City. But with other patient’s family members vying for the same rooms, her decision on the matter required a near-immediate answer with virtually no time to conduct any measure of due diligence.
A Majority of Abuse Incidents Go Unreported in American Nursing Homes
While this Alabama incident was reported, most are not; according to one estimate, only 7% of elder abuse incidents are documented. Complicating the low reporting rates for elder abuse is the fact that the abuse on the elderly nearly always involves a family members or a position in a person of trust with the elderly individual. Numerous government agencies report back on public records data with findings that hold approximately 90% of elder abuse perpetrators are family members of the victim. Moreover, increased vulnerability of the elderly person in the form of mentally instability, cognitive deficits, and other perceptual deficits only increase the likelihood of elderly individuals becoming victimized.
Legal Counsel Can Help Families Deal with Nursing Home Companies
In a number of ways, legal counsel during the nursing home selection process, or in the event of a highly rushed removal from a long-standing residence, the best source to determine one’s specific legal rights and options, then go about pursuing these, would be through legal counsel practicing in the area of elder law.