Elder abuse is much more common than most people realize. It is abhorrent and takes many different forms. According to the United States Department of Justice, approximately 1 out of every 10 seniors is abused each year, and only approximately 1 out of every 23 cases are actually reported to appropriate authorities. In response to increasing concerns over elder abuse in this country, Congress passed the Elder Justice Act (EJA) as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010.
What Does the EJA Do?
This federal law applies to those who are aged 60 and over and is the first major piece of legislation to address elder abuse in the country. One of the main goals of the EJA is coordinate responses to elder abuse across federal and state agencies. The law also seeks to support efforts to detect and prevent elder abuse in this country. There are various provisions of the EJA, including the following:
Establishing the Elder Justice Coordinating Council
Establishing the Advisory Board on Elder Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation
Requiring immediate reporting of crimes that happen inside a long-term care facility
Imposing penalties for retaliation against those who report violations
Providing support for elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation forensic centers
Directing a study for creating a national nurse aide registry that includes criminal background checks
Penalties Established Under the EJA
Under the EJA, owners, operators, managers, employees, agents, or contractors of long-term care facilities receiving at least $10,000 in federal funds are required to report any reasonable suspicion of a crime committed against a resident or anyone receiving care from the facility.
Reports must be made to both the federal Department of Health and Human Services as well as to local law enforcement authorities within 24 hours. If the incident in question could result or did result in serious bodily injury, reporting must be completed within two hours.
If a covered individual fails to comply with the reporting requirements under the EJA, they could be subject to a monetary penalty of $200,000. If a failure to report increased the harm to a victim or resulting in harm to another victim, the fine is increased to $300,000.
What Types of Elder Abuse Occur?
There are various types of elder abuse that happened in the United States. This can include the following:
Physical abuse. This type of abuse includes any intentionally inflicted physical harm. Some common examples of elder physical abuse include punching, slapping, pulling, shoving, improper use of restraints, and more.
Sexual abuse. Any sexual contact between a vulnerable elderly resident by a caregiver (nursing home employee, volunteer, friend, family member) is considered sexual abuse.
Neglect. An elderly person’s basic needs must be met. This includes the requirement for food, water, shelter, clothing, wound care, and medication. If these needs are not met by caregivers, this could be considered neglect.
Psychological and emotional abuse. Abuse can happen psychologically and emotionally through isolation, intimidation, threatening actions and words, and more.
Financial abuse. If caregivers or nursing home employees misuse their access to a resident’s financial and personal information for personal gain, this could be considered financial abuse.
The Elder Justice Act is just one tool that can be used to protect vulnerable elderly people in this country. If you suspect that your elderly loved one has been abused in a nursing home or other type of assisted living facility, contact an Anaheim elder abuse attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer will be able to investigate what happened and work to secure any compensation your loved one is entitled to.