Nursing homes are required by law to provide quality care and protect residents from harm. Recently, we were asked about the relationship between nursing home abuse and crime. Protecting residents from harm is often viewed as preventing bedsores, falls, or illness. But what about protecting residents from criminals, employees with a criminal record, or fellow residents who may choose to break the law?
The truth is, nursing homes are as likely to experience criminal behavior as anywhere else. While we all hope that our loved ones will find peace and tranquility in a nursing home environment, that is not always the case.
Examples of Criminal Behavior in Nursing Homes
There are many actions, or lack thereof, that are unethical or negligent, but may not be “illegal”. If you suspect that your loved one has been abused, neglected, or victimized by crime, it is important to contact an attorney to help identify exactly what happened and take action.
In the nursing home environment, there are several situations that commonly move beyond negligence into the realm of criminal behavior. Consider the following examples:
In August 2016, a nursing home Medicaid Coordinator in Miami was charged with three counts of grand theft and exploitation. She is accused to conning residents into giving her access to their ATM cards. She then allegedly withdrew cash or accessed their accounts stealing more than $13,000. Residents were told that they had too much money in their accounts to continue qualifying for Medicaid, and that the Coordinator was putting “excess” funds into a company safe. She was, instead, spending the money on herself.
Fellow Nursing Home Residents
Nursing home employees are not the only ones capable of committing criminal acts. Nursing home residents can also be a threat to your loved one. In July 2016, an 87-year-old nursing home resident in Florida was charged with sexual battery after he was found having sex with a 94-year-old nursing home resident. The victim suffers from Parkinson’s Disease and was too debilitated to consent.
There are also many cases where nursing home abuse or neglect is severe enough to result in criminal charges. Nursing home employees, family members, or other caregivers are all subject to criminal liability if they physically harm an elderly person. Further, they can also be held liable for negligence if they fail to respond to witnessed or suspected abuse. Nursing homes and caregivers can also be criminally charged for failure to report abuse that occurs at the hands of an employee, family member, or other resident.
What the Law Says about Nursing Home Safety
There are a variety of laws designed to protect nursing home residents from abuse, neglect, and crime. The Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA) has specific standards that must be met by nursing homes that receive Medicaid or Medicare funding. NHRA requirements include:
- States receiving Medicaid or Medicare funding must utilize a state agency dedicated to enforcing NHRA and other legal standards.
- Nursing homes receiving Medicaid and Medicare funding must “attain and maintain the highest practical mental and psychosocial well-being of each resident”.
- Nursing home residents must not be physically or pharmaceutically confined or restrained for the convenience of staff, or as punishment.
- Sexual abuse is a violation of federal and state criminal laws. Sexual abuse may constitute standard laws and elder abuse laws, which may result in harsher punishment.
- All nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities must provide care and an environment for each resident that will enhance and maintain their quality of life.
- All residents must be given identical policies and practices related to services, transfer, or discharge, regardless of the method and source of payment.
- Resident finances must be managed independent of facility accounts. Nursing homes must not require residents to deposit funds within the facility.
- Nurse aides and staff members must demonstrate competency and complete training and continuing education to ensure they uphold standards.
What to Do if You Suspect Criminal Activity in a Nursing Home
If you or someone you love is living in a nursing home, and you suspect criminal activity on the part of an employee or resident, it is important to get help immediately. If you witness criminal behavior, call 911 immediately. If the person committing the act is a resident, notify nursing home staff right away. If it is an employee, notify the supervisor or administrator after calling 911.
If you suspect any form of nursing home abuse, neglect, or criminal activity, you also may find it helpful to contact your local Adult Protective Services (APS) office, Ombudsman, or other community advocacy office for the elderly. These organizations can help you learn more about crime, abuse, and neglect in nursing homes, and can provide you with information about filing a complaint or moving yourself or your loved one.
Many people also find it helpful to contact a nursing home abuse attorney. An attorney who is skilled in nursing home abuse and elder law can help you understand your legal rights as a resident or family member. Further, if your situation qualifies as crime, abuse, or neglect, an attorney can help investigate options to get compensation for the harm you and/or your loved ones have suffered.
Get Your Free Case Review
To find out more, contact Brown Wharton & Brothers today to schedule your free case review. Our skilled nursing home abuse attorneys can help you get answers and fight for the justice you deserve. Get started today by completing our online form.