As the American population ages and more and more seniors enter nursing homes and other assisted living facilities, elder abuse, specifically nursing home abuse, has become an increasingly urgent national concern. In order to expose nursing home abuse to the proper authorities, many states and the federal government require certain individuals to report incidents of suspected abuse. But a recent federal investigation has found that many nursing home employees fail to follow these mandatory reporting requirements. If you or a loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse, contact a San Mateo County nursing home abuse attorney.
Over a Quarter of Nursing Home Abuse Goes Unreported
The Office of the Inspector General in the Department of Health and Human Services released a report recently that found that over a quarter of nursing home abuse goes unreported nationally, despite federal laws that require serious cases of abuse to be submitted to the police. Looking at records from 2015 and 2016, investigators found 134 cases of nursing home abuse across the US serious enough to require emergency treatment that were not reported to the police. In all cases of abuse, the study found that 72% of cases were reported, but the remaining 28% were not. Most of the incidences of unreported abuse involved sexual assault.
A Lack of Federal Enforcement
The report also notes that federal mandatory reporting laws were strengthened in 2011, but that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that regulates nursing homes, has been lax in enforcement. The revised federal law requires someone who suspects abuse of a nursing home resident causing serious bodily injury to report their suspicion to local law enforcement within two hours or less. Failure to do so can result in fines of up to $300,000. However, CMS never received express authority from the Secretary of Health and Human Services to enforce penalties, and only started seeking the authority to do so in 2017.
Mandatory Abuse Reporting Requirements in California
California state law requires certain individuals (known as “mandated reporters”) to report particular categories or types of abuse to appropriate law enforcement or social service agencies. The categories of abuse required to be reported are child abuse and neglect, elder and dependent adult abuse, and domestic abuse. Mandatory reporters in California include:
- All licensed healthcare professionals (including nurses and employees in long-term health facilities)
- Social workers and marriage and family counselors
- Elder or dependent adult custodians
- Employees of a protective service or law enforcement agency.
These mandatory reporters are required to report when:
- They witness an incident
- The receive information or evidence of an incident (whether visual or audible)
- An elder or dependent adult discloses an incident that appears to constitute abuse
The law also requires that long-term health facilities provide training and continuing education to all staff in recognizing and reporting elder abuse. Failure to report an incident of elder abuse is a crime punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
Speak With a San Mateo County Nursing Home Abuse Attorney As Soon As Possible
Although you should always report suspected abuse to the authorities, you should also contact counsel to pursue all available remedies against those responsible for the abuse. You can reach the San Mateo County nursing home abuse attorneys at Evans Law Firm, Inc. by calling (415) 441-8669 or by email. We can help guide your case through a jury trial or toward an equitable settlement. We handle cases involving physical and financial elder abuse, qui tam and whistleblower law, nursing home abuse, whole life insurance and universal life insurance fraud, and indexed, variable, and fixed annuities fraud.