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DOJ: New Elder Justice Task Forces Focus on Nursing Home Abuse

The U.S. Department of Justice has announced the launch of 10 regional Elder Justice Task Forces, which will coordinate with state and local law enforcement, prosecutors and other agencies to not only provide services to the elderly, but also to take action against facilities that perpetuate nursing home abuse.

Stuart Delery, the acting associate attorney general for the initiative, said that while millions of elderly Americans count on nursing homes and staffers to provide adequate care and treat them with dignity – which is a baseline requirement – too many nursing homes are putting profits before people.

Task force members will seek to identify potential problems before they grow into serious issues and also to take to task those facilities who fail in their duties to patients who are elderly, frail and suffering from dementia and other similar conditions.

One of the biggest problems, according to the DOJ news release, is that facilities are not providing residents in receipt of Medicare and Medicaid with basic nursing services – which taxpayers are subsidizing.

The task force locations are being launched in:

  • Northern District of Georgia
  • District of Kansas
  • Western District of Kentucky
  • Northern District Iowa
  • Southern District of Ohio
  • Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • Middle District of Tennessee
  • Western District of Washington
  • District of Maryland
  • Northern District of California

Researchers for the DOJ report that:

  • 1 in every 10 Americans over the age of 60 is abused annually;
  • Of those seniors abused, most are women and most live in communities, rather than nursing homes;
  • Abuse of the elderly is vastly underreported, with only about 1 in every 23 acts of abuse reported to the right protective services arm;
  • One of the biggest risk factors for abuse is cognitive decline;
  • The elderly who have been abuse have a greater likelihood of being hospitalized or sent to live in a nursing home than those who have not.

The agency defines elder abuse as either a single or repeated act or lack of appropriate action occurring in a relationship where there is an expectation of trust that causes harm to the elder. Federal researchers say polyvictimization – in which an individual suffers more than one form of abuse – occurs in between 10 to 40 percent of all abuse cases.

Some types of nursing home abuse include:

  • Financial exploitation
  • Physical abuse
  • Neglect
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse

Beyond freedom from abuse, Florida nursing home residents are entitled to receive treatment by staff that are experienced and qualified. Too often, nursing homes fail to hire staff that is qualified, don’t properly train them or fail to hire enough staffers.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report the average staff-to-resident ratio is 1 staffer to ever 1.64 residents. Under-staffing and lack of qualified staff can result not only in certain services not provided to residents, but in an increase in stress levels among staffers, which in turn results in a loss of morale and even compassion.

In some cases, nursing homes can be liable for third-party abuse, such as if a fellow resident commits violence against another. A claim like this would most likely be for negligent security.

A breach of a nursing home resident’s basic rights to autonomy, dignity and privacy are grounds for legal action too.

If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of nursing home abuse in Florida, we can help.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Department of Justice Launches 10 Regional Elder Justice Task Forces, March 30, 2016, Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs

More Blog Entries:

Feds: Nursing Home Deficiencies, Poor Care Stats Improving, April 5, 1016, Fort Lauderdale Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog


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