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Fighting Back Against Nursing Home Abuse in North Carolina

July 17, 2015 Nursing Home Abuse

Abuse of the elderly is a growing problem throughout the country.  This is especially problematic as our aging population grows and more families make use of long-term care and nursing home facilities.  It is important that you and your elderly family members know the risks and the tools you have at your disposal.

Elder abuse is a general term that describes abuse, neglect, or mistreatment of vulnerable elders by a caregiver or family member (i.e. anyone in a position of trust or power).  This can range from defrauding an elderly relative out of his or her life savings to neglecting to provide for basic needs like food and water to outright physical or sexual abuse.  Studies have found that more than 10 percent of participants experienced abuse in the past year and that only 1 in 14 cases ever comes to the attention of the authorities.

The Numbers

Nursing home abuse is another form of elder abuse and one that is continuing to grow, as the numbers clearly show.  The latest census report indicated that the U.S. reached its highest number of individuals over the age of 65 – more than 40.3 million or 13 percent of the total population.  This means that more and more individuals will be at risk of suffering abuse in the hands of their nursing home or long-term living facility caregivers.  One study has disturbingly found that 44 percent of nursing home residents said they had been abused and 95 percent were neglected or witnessed another resident being neglected.  The numbers are even worse for those elderly individuals who are disabled or suffer from conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. Physically disabled elderly women are 33 percent more likely to experience violence than those who are not and 53 percent have suffered sexual abuse.  More than half of men indicated they experienced physical abuse for the first time once they became disabled.  The statistics go on and on.

Protections in North Carolina

Fortunately, North Carolina has put in place laws meant to protect the elderly and disabled.  For example, the state’s Attorney General’s office has a Medicaid Investigations Division that is responsible for prosecuting patient abuse in nursing homes that receive Medicaid funding (which is almost all of them).  The Protection of the Abused, Neglected, or Exploited Disabled Adult Act is the state law that makes it illegal to exploit, abuse, or neglect a disabled adult, including the elderly.  There are also mandatory reporting procedures in place for abuse that occurs in a nursing home, long-term care, or other health care facility.

Elderly Persons’ Rights

Furthermore, nursing home residents also have rights. North Carolina is one of the few states to have a state Adult Care Home Bill of Rights.  Nursing home residents have a right to be treated with respect, consideration, and dignity.  They have a right to privacy and the right to receive care and services as dictated by federal and state law.  They have a right to be free of physical abuse, neglect, and exploitation.  They have a right to receive a reasonable response to their requests for care/other needs from the nursing home staff. They have a right to communicate privately and without restriction.  They also have a right to make a private phone call.  These are but some of the few rights elderly residents in nursing home and other care facilities have – rights that are so frequently ignored or violated.

What Can You Do?

One just needs to google nursing home abuse to see the frequency and horrifying nature of these crimes.  Routine sexual abuse, allowing wounds to fester to the point of maggots living in the body, physical violence, denial of visitation rights, and just outright neglect are but a few examples of the types of dangers nursing home residents face.  If you have family members in such a facility, it is important you recognize the potential signs of abuse: bedsores, frequent infections, bruises, lack of cleanliness, excessive restraints, and lack of contact.

While it is critical you do the research and chose a reputable nursing home, you never know what can happen.  In addition to reporting to the authorities any suspicion of abuse, you have the option to pursue litigation against those who have violated your loved one’s rights or harmed them in any way.

Speak with an Experienced Attorney

Nursing home abuse is increasingly common.  It is important that you hire an experienced attorney who can not only help you choose the right home and sign a fair contract, but also help you hold accountable any abusive or neglectful nursing home.