Legal Rights Of The Elderly

Elder abuse exists in many forms and most often occurs in nursing homes and other assisted living facilities for senior citizens. Poor management, lack of funds, unqualified staff, and overcrowded facilities, have made senior citizens the vulnerable subjects of abuse. However, the federal government is taking an active role to rid the nation of misconduct and insufficient nursing homes. With new mandated regulations, nursing homes are being held accountable for elder abuse, and seniors citizens are gaining control of their legal rights.

What Is Elder Abuse
Abuse is a common issue, but not easily detected, mainly because it comes in various different forms. There are four main types of elder abuse. The first type, and easiest to detect, is physical abuse. Physical abuse is defined as any act of physical force, which causes another to have injuries, pain, or distress. This kind of abuse is noticeable because there are usually physical warning signs that act as indicators. In nursing homes, the most common injuries elders experience are broken bones, bruises, cuts, untreated infections, pain, and sprains. It is not unheard of for elders to fall, but when accidents occur on a regular basis, it is possible that negligence has contributed to physical abuses.

The second type of abuse is known as emotional abuse. This kind of abuse frequently goes unnoticed, particularly with residents whom have cognitive impairments and other illnesses that impact the mind, such as dementia. It is closely linked to all other abuses because, in most cases, any abuse is likely to cause emotional distress. It is imperative to pay close attention to any behavioral changes and complaints made by an elder.

Verbal and emotional abuse are connected. Examples of verbal abuse include name-calling, threatening, yelling, blaming, lying, and taunting. In a general sense, verbal abuse is defined as any use of violent language that is hurtful emotionally and psychologically to another. Instances of verbal abuse are difficult to catch because they often occur behind closed walls.

Another common form of abuse is neglect. When an individual's needs are not met or are deliberately ignored, negligence has occurred. If an elder is left in isolation for long periods of time, suffers from malnutrition, or has experienced bedsores, you may have evidence of neglect. Medical neglect is also a problem in many nursing homes. Because of unqualified employees, nursing home residents go without prescription medications or receive incorrect dosages. As a result of this malpractice, residents may experience negative physical side effects that can be life threatening or fatal. A nursing home that does not provide proper medical care to residents is subject to citations and lawsuits. Similarly, if a facility fails to contact family members in the case of an emergency, they may be held liable for negligence.

Legal Rights of the Elderly
If you suspect that a family member residing in a assisted living facility is experiencing one or more of these types of abuses, your first step is to gather appropriate and relevant documentation. For example, you may need to keep a journal so that you can record all observations of misconduct on a regular basis. It is important to leave a paper trail so that legal action can be taken at a later date. A word-of-mouth account does not provide enough evidence to be upheld in court.

Once you have attained relevant information, you must contact an attorney as soon as possible. While you might already work with a personal attorney, it is best to hire one with experience handling elder abuse and neglect cases. The simplest way to reach prospective attorneys is to ask for references and recommendations. Researching the reputations, experiences, and history of selected attorneys is imperative. An attorney can help you file a formal complaint, can gather professionals to conduct an investigation, and can then walk you through the litigation processes to follow. More importantly, the right attorney ensures that your rights, as well as the rights of your family member are upheld. With the right attorney, you are provided with the resources required to advocate for your loved one. Senior citizens should never have to suffer from abuse simply because they have physical or cognitive limitations prohibiting them from standing up for their rights. Luckily, federal regulations are forcing nursing homes to comply with new moral codes.

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