While elder mistreatment has reached epidemic proportions in America, individual cases are drastically under-reported. According to the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, there were a total of 253,421 reported cases of elder abuse in 2006. In New York State, approximately 141 out of every 1,000 seniors over 65 will experience elder abuse or neglect within their lifetimes. But another study, performed by the National Center on Elder Abuse found that “an estimated 84% of incidents are not reported to authorities, denying victims the protection and support they need.”
Researchers and elder care professionals offer numerous explanations for the under-reporting of elder mistreatment. And they’re all hard to hear. Seniors fear retaliation if they speak out; they are ashamed to have become victims; they believe that they will be forced into an institution; they don’t think anyone will believe them.
The elderly are, by and large, vulnerable, unable to protect themselves. As sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren, the duty of reporting elder abuse falls on our shoulders. We must remain vigilant ourselves; it’s the only way to protect our loved ones and hold nursing homes accountable for their actions.
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First, stop and review the facts.
Are you certain that something is wrong, that your loved one is being mistreated? Do you know that essential services are being withheld? Sometimes the signs of elder abuse are obvious, and you can tell without a shadow of a doubt that something is not right. You can find more information on what to watch for here.
But more often than not, family members will become suspicious before they become certain. The signs of nursing home neglect are often subtle, and it can be difficult to tell the difference between the natural aging process and the effects of mistreatment.
In either case, you should do something. Don’t let nagging doubts about the situation prevent you from speaking up. But your level of certainty should change your demeanor in doing so. Obviously, making claims of elder abuse or neglect are nothing to be taken lightly.
If you have become aware of immediate, pressing dangers to your elderly loved one, call 911 immediately and report the problem.
You can always bring up questions and concerns with the staff of your loved one’s facility. If you’ve noticed substandard conditions or a troubling change in your loved one’s demeanor, ask to speak with a manager. Demand an explanation and request a correction in treatment.
If the problem seems relatively minor, use your better judgment. Decide whether it’s worth waiting to see if the problem is fixed, or if you should contact an authority. If the problem is serious, you’re really worried, or the nursing home’s employee made no meaningful changes in their behavior, reach out to a nursing home abuse professional.
Be prepared to report your loved one’s name and the name and address of their facility. Then describe why you suspect mistreatment: what have you seen? What has your loved one told you? The operator might ask you a few questions to help begin their investigation:
Ombudsmen represent one of those “checks and balances” we hear about all the time in reference to America’s governmental system. They are appointed by the government but work largely independent of other agencies. In fact, their mission is to hear the complaints of citizens and then investigate those complaints. Most ombudsmen investigate alleged violations of rights within public organizations.
New York State’s Office Of Long Term Care Ombudsman investigates allegations of elder mistreatment within nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and group homes. You can find contact information for New York City’s ombudsman here.
While governmental services are often effective in addressing potential abuse cases within nursing homes, they are also severely understaffed. For example, New York City is assigned only one long-term care ombudsman, who must represent residents living in over 150 nursing homes.
In fact, most cases go unheard without the work of experienced nursing home neglect attorneys. While New York’s governmental elder care services work hard to penalize negligent facilities, they do little to compensate the actual victims of abuse.
Contact the New York City nursing home abuse lawyers at Banville Law to schedule a free consultation. Our attorneys are dedicated to holding elder care facilities accountable for their victims, but put a premium on the recovery of your elderly loved one. By filing a personal injury lawsuit, you can seek compensation for necessary medical expenses, along with “non-economic damages,” pain, suffering, and loss of the enjoyment of life. The lawyers at Banville Law always work on a contingency-fee-basis: you owe nothing until we win your case.