A new California health care law makes all employees, supervisors or administrators at nursing homes or assisted living facilities mandated reporters. As mandated reporters, they are legally required to report any physical abuse, abandonment, neglect, isolation or financial abuse of residents in long-term care centers to local law enforcement and the care center’s ombudsman.
The new legislation is a welcome response to elder abuse. Napa County’s Health and Human Services department investigated 295 abuse and neglect cases involving seniors in 2012. Financial abuse of the elderly, including theft and embezzlement, has also been on the rise – from 16 reports in 2008 to 92 in 2012. Experts, however, don’t think that the reported numbers accurately reflect the amount of elder abuse that is occurring. After all, you can’t count abuse that isn’t being reported.
Poor reporting of elder abuse
Reports from the Senate and from Disability Rights California reveal that reporting abuse of the elderly is inconsistent and often too late. A 2009 Senate report declared that part of the problem was the conflicting roles of nursing home ombudsmen. Nursing home ombudsmen are supposed to advocate for the quality of care and life of residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. But they also must identify, investigate and resolve complaints by or on behalf of the facility’s elderly residents. In essence, they are required to work with the facilities to improve conditions in a home and investigate violations in those same homes.
Additionally, nursing home ombudsmen were unable to report alleged abuse without the victim’s permission, and as many as 75 percent of elderly residents refused, or were unable to competently give that consent. Unfortunately, some elderly abuse victims don’t want to report the abuse because they are scared of retaliation.
Repercussion for failing to report elder abuse
Failure to report any known or suspected abuse is a misdemeanor. The new law requires the facility employees who suspect abuse to contact the police both by phone and in writing with thin two hours of becoming aware of or suspecting any serious physical abuse of a resident, and within 24 hours for suspicion of abuse that does not result in an injury. Penalties for failing to follow the reporting rules include a maximum jail sentence of six months and/or a $1000 fine.
The rule of thumb for reporting is: if you are not sure whether or not to report something, then you should report it.
Experienced nursing home abuse attorney
Our loved ones have the right to be free of mistreatment, abuse and neglect. If you suspect that that someone you love has been abused in a nursing home or assisted living facility, contact the California Department of Social Services and an experienced nursing home abuse attorney immediately.