Elderly abuse has grown at such an alarming rate that it has become a global concern. Based on reported cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) claims that 1 in 6 adults aged 60 and above suffers from nursing home abuse. As if that’s not enough, a U.S. Department of Justice survey says only 1 in 24 elder abuse cases is reported.
If elder abuse is left unchecked, abusive caregivers will continue to turn old age into a nightmare for the aging population. Hence, we can only give seniors the serene life they deserve when we understand the laws protecting the elderly.
Get comfortable. This article will break down elderly abuse, rights, and laws in the simplest way possible.
What is Elder Abuse?
We cannot define elder law and the rights of the elderly without first talking about nursing home abuse and its types.
Thus, nursing home abuse is defined as any action that hurts a resident or the failure to keep older adults from harm. Elder abuse occurs when a caregiver fails to offer quality care to residents, thereby subjecting them to physical or psychological harm.
Since abuse is easier dealt with when you can identify minor and negligible incidents, let’s take a quick look at the types of abuse in nursing homes.
What are the 6 Types of Elder Abuse?
The six types of elder abuse are:
Physical assault is when an older person feels pain or injury from a caregiver’s actions causing bodily and emotional harm.
Examples of physical abuse include:
- Being forcefully locked in a room
- Hitting or slapping
- Shoving or pushing
It occurs when a caregiver forces a resident to engage in sexual activities without consent. This abuse is common among seniors with impaired mental function who cannot clearly state their disinterest.
Financial abuse happens when a caregiver:
- Threatens or physically forces residents to surrender cash
- Steals from a resident’s wallet
- Uses deception to collect items of monetary value from a resident
Residents suffering with reduced mental function and ailments like Alzheimer’s are easy targets as they’re not in good shape to make financial decisions or report abuse. Therefore, the best defense against this abuse is proper financial planning by hiring a financial advisor.
Emotional or Psychological
This abuse occurs when the actions of a caregiver inflicts emotional pain on the resident, making them moody, withdrawn, or depressed.
Emotional abuse can be verbal like:
- Talking a resident down
- Threatening a resident
Or subtle, nonverbal actions like:
- Taunting or mimicking residents
- Silent treatment
- Cutting them off mid-sentence
- Making them feel every mistake is their fault
Abandonment happens when a caregiver disappears and deserts an older adult on purpose and without prior notice.
Any of the following actions is considered as abandonment:
- Failure to attend to a senior at the appropriate time
- Leaving a resident without proper nutrition and clothes
- Failure to administer medication at the right time or turn them over, which is a significant cause of bed sores
Neglect or Negligence
Caregivers neglect a resident when they don’t employ services that will improve the well-being of the senior. This abuse is the caregiver’s failure to provide adequate care, medical services, and enough supervision. Failure to protect seniors from abuse or exploitation by another person is also a form of negligence.
Now that you know the six types of nursing home abuse, let’s examine the rights and elderly laws that condemn maltreatment and protect our loved ones.
What are the Rights of Senior Citizens?
The rights of a senior citizen—persons aged 50 and above—are the legal, just, or moral declarations that protect their interest(s). This means that any action proving otherwise is contrary to the law and warrants legal action.
But you can only seek redress if you know your rights.
According to the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act, the rights of every resident include but aren’t limited to the following:
- Freedom to interact with family members, fellow residents, medical personnel, and government representatives
- Freedom to communicate your grievances and dissatisfaction without fear
- Freedom to choose, review, and be duly informed of changes in your care plan and medications
- Freedom from abuse
- Freedom from neglect
- Freedom from exploitation
- Freedom from discrimination and coercion
- Right to a respected private space free from abuse
- Right to be free from physical or chemical restraint
- Right to a dignified existence
- Right to informed consent on health care services
- You should get the elderly right to good health care
- Right to choose a caregiver
- Right to own, keep, and use personal belongings unless it would affect the rights or health of another
- Right to equal treatment in nursing homes
- Right to participate in religious, political, social, and economic activities
- Right to a legal representative
- Right to address medical, physical, psychological, and social needs
However, the few above-mentioned rights and many others fall under five prominent, well-thought-out rights.
The five most crucial rights of the elderly are:
- Right to independence.
- Right to participation.
- Right to care.
- Right to self-fulfillment.
- Right to dignity.
Overall, the listed rights are a befitting summary of elderly rights. So when nurses and nursing homes infringe on any one, you can take legal action against them for unfair treatment.
Don’t forget to check out our recent article for an in-depth insight on elder rights. Now, let’s talk about elder law and its role in stopping nursing home abuse.
What is Elder Law?
Elder law is a set of legal practices that address issues affecting senior citizens, such as their health, personal care, and financial status. They include comprehensive rules and regulations which keep elderly persons in good shape through proper financial planning and long-term care.
Wikipedia divides elder law into three broad categories:
- Estate management and administration.
- Medicaid, disability.
And several subdivisions which include, but aren’t limited to:
- Rights advocacy
- Drafting a living will with the help of an elder law attorney
- Estate planning
- Guardianship or conservatorship
- Protection from and fighting against all kinds of abuse
- Planning the latter stages of life, including retirement and health care
- Financial advice like tax calculation and payment
Elderly financial laws by state not only forbids anyone from taking an older adult’s money or property but also allows seniors and their guardians to charge abusers to court.
The following subheading will shed more light on Florida’s elder care laws.
Florida’s Law on Exploitation of the Elderly
The Alzheimer’s Association claims that about five million Americans have a form of dementia. Because their infirmities and mental ailments render them incapable, older adults are prone to fraud by caregivers. (Even hale and hearty people are sometimes victims of exploitation; how much more people who have come of age.)
Nevertheless, Florida’s laws has their back. Florida’s elder exploitation statute of section 415.1111 says “vulnerable adults” can take legal action when exploited. It further states that seniors are entitled to compensation for damages and attorney fees.
In cases where abused seniors aren’t legally competent to take action, the law allows any interested person to take up the case. But they must swear to tender facts and file a guardianship action.
If you believe someone is being physically, emotionally, or financially exploited, it doesn’t matter whether you’re related. Call this hotline at 1-800-963-2873 to make a report. Guardians or family members can also reach out to a competent legal representative at Just Point for a case review.
What is the Elderly Act of 2010?
In 2010, the federal government passed the elderly Act to protect senior citizens from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. The Elder Justice Act is the first federal legislation piece to tackle elder abuse. The legislation led to the establishment of the Elder Justice Coordinating Committee and released funds to detect, stop, and prosecute abuse in nursing facilities.
The Act further states that any crime of “reasonable suspicion” MUST be reported. However, the definition of “reasonable suspicion” depends largely on the nursing home’s location; the terms of elderly financial laws by state have notable differences.
For example, the terms of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of the elderly in Florida slightly differ from Ontario’s.
Furthermore, the elderly Act only addresses nursing home abuse, which means that if a person pushes a senior in the park, the Elder Justice Act cannot interfere because it’s not in its jurisdiction. The Act also states the basic responsibilities expected from all nursing home staff.
Note: Nursing home laws are enforced based on the type of abuse; elder neglect laws for neglect, elderly abandonment laws for abandonment, and so on.
What to do in the infringement of elderly rights
Make a report! Failure to do so makes you an accomplice, so reach out to these sources once you suspect nursing home abuse:
- A nursing home ombudsman
- The Police
- A guardian or family member of the abused
- An elder abuse attorney
- The nearest Adult Protective Service (APS) branch
Can you File for Abuse?
Yes, you can! If your loved one has suffered from elder abuse, an experienced attorney can help you indict the caregiver or nursing home. You don’t have to worry about the process because we’ll link you with attorneys with proven records in dealing with elder abuse cases.
Although the compensation for nursing home abuse is not on the high side, the money paid from the lawsuit can sort the medical bills and help the victim live a healthier and more peaceful life.
Moreover, lawsuits instill a sense of trust in the judicial system and give the abused emotional and medical relief. You also get financial relief in compensation worth thousands of dollars, or more.
So kickstart the process today by getting a free case review. The earlier, the better!
Must Read: What You Need To Know Before Suing A Nursing Home For Negligence
Wrapping Up on Elderly Law Abuse
Everyone has a part to play in the fight against elderly abuse, and it’s easier now that we know that the law is on our side. Start today by enlightening seniors and their guardians or family members on nursing home rights. Knowledge is Power!