Laws Regarding Elder Neglect

Written by roseanne omalacy
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Laws Regarding Elder Neglect
Elder residents have rights under federal, state and criminal law. (Yellow Dog Productions/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Elder neglect is the most common form of family violence and physical abuse of the elderly, according to Elder neglect encompasses withholding food, medicine, clothing and items necessary for daily living. Neglect also includes not bathing or caring for the elderly person. The federal law assists in the prevention of elderly neglect and supports state-specific laws on elder abuse through federal funding. There are important laws to be aware of regarding elder neglect.

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Federal Laws

The most substantial federal law put into place regarding elderly abuse is the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987, also called the Nursing Home Reform Act. According to Elder Parent Help, the Nursing Home Reform Act provides federal statutory protection for residents in certified nursing facilities. Prior to the NHRA, there was no minimum standard of care by which facilities were judged. The NHRA provides residents the right to freedom from abuse, neglect or mistreatment. Residents have the right to privacy, information on medical changes, the right to voice grievances without discrimination, and accommodation of physical, emotional and social needs. The Nursing Home Reform Act also changed the way states inspect facilities, with the introduction of unannounced surveys and interviews with residents. Nursing facilities in violation of the NHRA are subject to a variety of penalties and can even be temporarily shut down.

State Laws

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, every state has laws relating to elder abuse and neglect. These laws allow the state provision of Adult Protected Services (APS) to act in cases of elder abuse. Adult protective laws often cover elderly residents living with family members. Some states add institutional abuse laws to protect seniors living in nursing homes and other elderly care facilities. APS laws include statutes that prohibit the use of physical restraints, monitor the way elder patients receive care and encourage seniors to be involved in their own care. Adult protective state laws also support a person's right to be free of emotional and physical abuse, receive mail and manage one's own affairs. Violations of Adult Protected Service laws usually result in penalties and fines.

Criminal Laws

Criminal acts against the elderly include crimes such as theft, rape, battery and assault. These crimes often result in physical evidence, allowing the courts to rule in favour of the elderly person if sufficient evidence is found. Criminal acts are punishable by law and may result in jail time. Some states require that criminal background checks be performed on individuals seeking employment at elderly homes to rule out a history of violence, rape and sexual abuse.

Medicare Rights

Facilities receiving Medicare funding for an elder resident's care must comply with all Medicare laws governing elder abuse. Residents are ensured a list of residents' rights including the right to privacy, dignity and respect, informed medical care and knowledge of predetermined fees before entering a nursing facility. The nursing home must provide residents with a copy of these rights.

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