January 15, 2015
Nursing home abuse is a problem throughout the country. A recent case highlights the issue; alleging a national chain pushed workers to provide unnecessary care that put “frail, dying patients through arduous rehab schedules just to increase revenue,” according to a recent report by the Associated Press. This case fuels discussion about the culture within similar facilities, and provides an opportunity to become familiar with the expectations that these facilities provide a safe environment.
Reporting abuse: What qualifies?
Abuse can come in many forms. Lawmakers in West Virginia have taken steps to cover a variety of situations and protect citizens who receive care in nursing facilities by passing laws that broadly define abuse. Abuse is defined as the infliction or threat to inflict physical pain or injury on or the imprisonment (detaining person against his/her will) of any incapacitated adult or facility resident.
Instances of neglect can also qualify as abuse.
Neglect is defined as the failure to provide necessities of life to an incapacitated adult or facility resident with the intent to physically harm or coerce the incapacitated adult or facility resident or unlawfully use their funds or assets.
These legal definitions essentially cover the types of abuse a person receiving care in a nursing facility could experience. This can include instances of physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse.
Reporting abuse: Who can file a report?
There are essentially two ways abuse can be reported. A loved one or friend may suspect or witness abuse or the individual experiencing abuse can make a report, or a professional may be required by law to report a potentially abusive situation. West Virginia state law mandates individuals holding certain professional roles to report abuse. This includes those holding certain positions in the medical, dental, mental health, social service, law enforcement, religious and elder care fields. If any one of the following is suspected, those who qualify are required to make a report:
- Reasonable cause to believe that an incapacitated adult is neglected, abused or in an emergency situation.
- Observation of an incapacitated adult being subjected to conditions likely to result in abuse, neglect or an emergency situation.
- Probable cause to believe that an incapacitated adult has died as a result of abuse or neglect.
A violation of this reporting requirement can lead to monetary fine and potential imprisonment.
Reporting abuse: How is it done?
Whether reporting as a professional, loved one, friend or individual suffering abuse, the first step is often a call to the local Department of Health and Human Resources. In instances of reports by professionals, a written report is also required. These reports should include as much relevant information as possible, potentially including the name of the person suffering abuse, the abuser, the location, time and date of the abuse and the type of abuse if possible. This report is often followed by an investigation which can lead to criminal charges.
Reporting abuse: Do I need an attorney?
The short answer is yes. In addition to criminal charges, civil remedies are also available. Victims of abuse are likely eligible to receive compensation to help cover various costs, including additional medical treatment required as a result of the abuse. Liable parties can include both the abuser and the facility itself, depending on the details of the case. As a result, it is wise to seek the counsel of an experienced nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer.