As the Baby Boomer generation moves into their retirement years, the “older” population in the U.S. is growing rapidly. Consequently, the need for caretakers has also grown at an astounding rate. Most people who care for the elderly do so with kindness and patience; however, there are those who prey on society’s most vulnerable, including the elderly. Realizing that an elderly loved one may be the victim of abuse can be a frightening and confusing revelation. The Los Angeles elder law attorneys at Schomer Law Group, APC offer suggestions for what you can do if you suspect a loved one is the victim of elder abuse.
How Often Does Elder Abuse Happen?
Unfortunately, accurate statistics regarding the frequency with which elder abuse occurs are difficult to come by because victims often cannot or will not speak up. Nevertheless, consider the following figures and conservative estimates:
- More than 40 percent of nursing home residents have reported abuse, and more than 90 percent report that they or another resident of the facility have been neglected.
- A recent study indicates that 7-10 percent of the elderly suffered from at least one episode of abuse within the past year.
- For every incident of abuse that is reported, experts believe as many as 14 go unreported.
What Should You Do If You Suspect Abuse?
If you have an elderly parent, grandparent, or other loved one who is in a long-term care facility or who is dependent on in-home care, the thought that a caregiver is abusing your loved one can be horrendous. If you do begin to suspect that your loved one is the victim of abuse, however, it is better to listen to your instincts. At that point, there are several steps you should take, including:
- If possible, confirm your suspicions by talking to your loved one. When possible, it is always good to confirm your suspicions. Unfortunately, victims of elder abuse in general are often embarrassed or ashamed to be a victim, making them reluctant to admit the abuse to anyone. If your loved one suffers from dementia, it will be even more difficult to discuss your suspicions.
- Ask for a meeting with the facility administrator or supervisor of at-home health care. Sometimes this is extremely helpful; however, in other instances administrators “circle the wagons” and worry more about the facility’s exposure to legal liability than they do about harm done to a resident.
- File a formal complaint. If your loved one is in a nursing home, you should file a formal complaint with the Licensing and Certification Division of the California Department of Public Health (DPH). A complaint can be made orally or in writing at any of the DPH district offices. You can also send a copy of the complaint to the Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud & Elder Abuse (BMFEA), a division of the California Attorney General’s office. There are three ways to file your complaint: (1) Call it in at 800-722-0432; (2) File your complaint on-line; or (3) Mail a copy of your complaint to the California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse, P.O. Box 944255, Sacramento, CA, 94244-2550.
- Contact local law enforcement. Elder abuse is a crime and should be reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency. Whether the subsequent investigation results in an arrest and conviction or not, the local authorities need to know about the abuse.
- Consult with an elder law attorney. Elder abuse can also be the basis for a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator and/or the facility. In addition, if your loved one is reluctant to speak out, or is suffering from dementia, you may need to petition for guardianship to move your loved one to a new facility.
Contact Los Angeles Elder Law Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about elder abuse or other elder law issues, contact the experienced Los Angeles elder law attorneys at Schomer Law Group APCby calling (310) 337-7696 to schedule an appointment.