Report: nursing home abuse often unreported, despite law requiring it

September 14, 2017

If a recent government report is any indication, nursing home abuse may be much more prevalent in the United States than most people realize — primarily because many instances of abuse and neglect go unreported to authorities.

This recent report/audit, which was published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General, found that more than one-quarter of all nursing home abuse cases examined were never actually reported to police, despite the fact the federal law typically requires such notification.

In fact, a federal statute specifically states that any reasonable suspicion of a crime against a nursing home resident must be reported to at least one local law enforcement agency (in addition to other parties). This notification must be made by "covered individuals" — i.e., anyone who is an owner, operator, manager, contractor or employee of a long-term care facility that receives at least $10,000 in federal funds, which includes almost every nursing home.

In addition, notification of these suspected crimes must be made within 24 hours unless the criminal offense involves serious bodily harm, in which case it must be reported within two hours.

Unfortunately, despite this law — and potential fines of up to $300,000 for violating it — the recent government report found that many cases of abuse and neglect are never reported, which is why the report concluded that the current procedures in place for ensuring the reporting of nursing home abuse are simply inadequate.

Hopefully, this report is wake up call for nursing homes to do whatever is necessary to end abuse in their facilities, or at the very least report it when it occurs. If they don't, they risk large fines and the loss of federal funding, not to mention a possible lawsuit based on the initial abuse.

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