One of the most unsettling thoughts with respect to placing our loved ones in a nursing home is the concern that someone might purposefully cause them physical harm. Most states have promulgated statutes that are designed to protect the elderly from abuse and neglect. Alabama’s statute, Protecting Alabama’s Elders Act, is found at § 38-9E-1 et seq. of the Alabama Code.
Despite strong laws in this area and aggressive prosecution efforts, the sad reality is that many elderly people continue to be abused. Unfortunately, this situation came to light recently in a Montgomery, Ala., nursing home. Authorities found that a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and former nursing home employee punched a 93-year-old nursing home patient. The report indicated that the elderly patient continued to spit her medicine out when the CNA attempted to administer the medications. The CNA was arrested and charged with abuse or neglect of a protected person.
In 2013, CBS News reported a similar event where two CNAs physically abused patients in Dallas, Texas. The events were caught on camera. In that report, CBS reported that an elder/nursing home advocacy group, Families for Better Care, researched reports from every state and concluded that 11 states received a failing grade for failing to protect elders from abuse and neglect. For the southeastern states, Florida and South Carolina received a score of “B.” All other southeastern states, except Louisiana, received a score of “D.” Louisiana was one of the 11 states that received a failing score of “F.” The states with a “superior” grade of “A” were Alaska, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. According to the group’s findings, one in five nursing homes abused, neglected or mistreated residents in about half of the states. The advocacy group determined that the nursing homes that staffed at higher levels received a higher ranking, while those who had fewer staff or who were understaffed received lower rankings. As late as September 2014, the group updated its findings. The updated report can be found at http://nursinghomereportcards.com.
While abuse events such as those reported in Alabama and Texas are presumably an exception and not the rule in nursing homes, if you suspect your loved one is being abused, the best course of action is to report the abuse to the facility administrator, the facility ombudsman, and the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH). For information related to the ADPH, you can go to www.adph.org. The ADPH also maintains a complaint line, and you may call them at 800-356-9596 or 800-873-0366. Of course, you may also need to report the event to the local law enforcement agency as well.
Our firm may also be able to assist with an investigation of reported abuse, and we may be able to offer suggestions on other alternatives in such situations. We understand that mentally and physically incapacitated persons are, like small children, the most helpless among us. Hopefully, nursing homes will do a thorough job of performing background checks and detailed interviews in order to minimize the possibility of hiring a person who would commit such an atrocious act. If you need more information, contact Ben Locklar, a lawyer in our firm who handles Nursing Home litigation, and who can be reached at 800-898-2034 or by email at Ben.Locklar@beasleyallen.com.
Sources: www.wsfa.com, and CBSNews.com
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