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Nursing Home Abuse Vastly Underreported

A recent study conducted by researchers with Cornell University and the state of New York revealed that there aremore than 250,000 adults 65 and older who were abused and neglected in 2011 – just in that state alone.

Our Davie nursing home abuse lawyers believe the figures for Florida would be much higher. Although New York has a few hundred thousand people more than Florida, we have a population that is skewed older.

The problem is that getting a real handle on the problem on a national scale is close to impossible as a result of a lack of reporting methods and the fact that no agency is charged with the official collection of nursing home abuse data.

Not to mention, this is a crime that is severely underreported. Nursing home residents are far less capable of advocating for themselves than those in the general population. This is compounded by the fact that administrators have every incentive not to self-report these incidents. They fear not only bad press, but also federal and state penalties, not to mention criminal sanctions. This is not to say that these facilities shouldn’t be held accountable when they have acted in a way that fails to protect patients from harm, but there are few incentives for whistleblowers. Many end up losing their jobs.

As such, many patients are forced to suffer silently.

Financial abuse was among the top crimes perpetuated against the elderly in New York, according to the most recent study. Many of those cases involved caretakers who bled them of cash.

The next most common complaints were physical and sexual abuse, which reportedly affected some 23 out of every 1,000 elderly New Yorkers.

A study conducted in 2010 by federal officials revealed that nearly half of all nursing home staffers admitted to in some way either mistreating or mentally or physically inflicting harm on their patients at some point in the last year. Seventy-five percent said they had neglected a patient at least once in the last year.

Even inspections have proven ineffective. The U.S. Department of Heath & Human Services estimates that about 7 out of 10 nursing home inspections fail to catch at least one problem at the facility, with 15 percent of those being serious or dangerous problems.

But all it takes is one serious problem – one missed medication, one instance of negligence, one abusive act – for a loved one to be forever damaged or even lost.

So how do we address this?

Some lawmakers have come forward with an answer in the form of H.R. 861, the Elder Abuse Victims Act of 2013. With seven co-sponsors, the bill would fund the creation of a federal agency under the umbrella of the U.S. Justice Department that would be in charge of establishing a systematic way of tracking elder abuse from sources in both local and state governments. The measure would also direct the U.S. Attorney General’s Office on the best way to enforce sanctions on elder abuse crimes.

Sadly, it doesn’t seem as if the measure has much chance at success, at least not during this session. It was referred to committee back in late February, and it hasn’t been touched since. It’s been given a prognosis of a six percent chance of getting passed in committee and only a 1 percent chance of getting passed.

We are hopeful these kinds of efforts will continue.

Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Watching out for nursing home abuse, neglect, May 18, 2013, By Jon Alexander, Post Star

Abuse may be common, but often hard to quantify, May 18, 2013, By Jon Alexander, Post Star

More Blog Entries:
$90M Nursing Home Abuse Verdict Upheld, May 23, 2013, Davie Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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