Investigators Find Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes is Prevalent and Underreported

San Francisco, CA (Law Firm Newswire) May 1, 2018 – A recent federal investigation revealed that more than 25 percent of serious cases involving the abuse of nursing home residents were not reported to law enforcement agencies. In addition, nursing homes failed to provide necessary medical care in incidents of physical abuse and sexual assault.

The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General released an emergency alert that said 134 cases of potential abuse or neglect at nursing homes were found in 33 states. Illinois had the most cases at 17, while California had 13. Auditors examined hospital records from 2015 and 2016. The suspected sexual or physical abuse in these cases was so severe that nursing home residents required emergency treatment.

“This investigation highlights once again that more needs to be done to combat elder abuse,” said elder law and estate planning attorney Michael Gilfix of Gilfix & La Poll Associates. “Family members with loved ones in senior care facilities should visit often and ask if they are being treated properly. They should also learn to identify signs of elder abuse so that it does not go unnoticed.”

According to a federal law that was enhanced in 2011, suspected abuse or neglect that causes serious bodily harm to a nursing home resident must be reported to local authorities within two hours. If the individual does not suffer serious bodily injuries, the incident must be reported no later than 24 hours. Nursing homes that fail to follow reporting requirements can be fined up to $300,000.

Out of the 134 cases, 28 percent were not reported to police within two hours. Eighty percent of the unreported cases involved the suspected sexual assault and rape of elderly patients.

The inspector general’s office said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services needs to take immediate steps to root out elder abuse and address the lack of federally mandated reporting. Investigators recommended the agency match Medicare claims from nursing home residents with emergency room claims, just like the auditors did.

Health and Human Services assistant regional inspector general Curtis Roy said his team was only able to uncover elder abuse cases that involved emergency treatment. There are likely to be many other victims.

Although investigators are continuing their probe into nursing home abuse, they said that the alert was released now because they are seeking immediate solutions to the problem. The Inspector General is expected to release a full report next year.

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