The Liability of Nursing Home Abuse
As reported in the 2010 Census, 13% of the United States population is over the age of 65. Over the next 40 years, that rate will likely rise to more than 20% of the population. With so much of the population at an advanced age, the need for elderly caregiving and medical assistance is at an all time high. Many members of this population find themselves in a nursing facility. Unfortunately, as these statistics increase, so do the incidents of nursing home abuse. The people charged with caring for these vulnerable individuals are often the ones responsible for their injuries. Even while awareness about the issue increases, through educational resources and outreach programs, the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) reports that cases of abuse continue to rise.
Florida reportedly holds the record for the highest percentage of elderly residents. According to the Florida Department of Elder Affairs:
- The state is home to more than 4.7 million adults over the age of 60;
- These numbers account for more than 24% of the state’s total population;
- Almost 2 million state residents are over the age of 75; and
- The fastest growing age group, in relation to population percentages, is the 100 and over group.
The Florida Department of Elder Affairs (DEA) provides various types of services to the state’s adult population. The agency administers a guardianship program and health insurance assistance. DEA also coordinates with the state’s Adult Protective Services to probe allegations of elder abuse and decrease the frequency of future problems. Towards this goal, DEA manages a 24-hour hotline that accepts anonymous tips about purported abuse. Once the agency records a complaint regarding a nursing home, the Department of Family and Children Affairs is contacted to complete a comprehensive investigation. If the allegations prove true, law enforcement officers are brought in to address the possibility of criminal charges.
What Constitutes Abuse
The definition of abuse, as explained by the NCEA, is the “intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm (whether or not harm is intended) to a vulnerable elder by a caregiver or other person who stands in a trust relationship to the elder.” Some examples of mistreatment include:
- Abandonment by a person with responsibility for an elderly individual;
- Physical battery;
- Using intimidation or threats of physical abuse to influence an elderly individual;
- Sexual assault or abuse;
- Neglecting the basic needs of an elderly individual;
- Failure to reasonably protect an elderly individual from harm; and
- Stealing or exploiting the financial resources of an elderly individual.
All nursing homes are mandated to follow numerous federal regulations. Almost one-third have a history of violations, according to the NCEA. When owners and employees fail to abide by the rules, abuse occurs. Along with criminal liability, courts may also find these nursing homes civilly liable. Some of these lawsuits resulted in awards that reach millions of dollars.
If your loved one was the victim of nursing home abuse in the West Palm Beach area, our personal injury attorneys at Gary Roberts & Associate, P.A. can provide you with skilled representation. Call the office or contact us today for a free and confidential consultation of your case.