Nursing Homes and Federal Reporting Requirements for Elder Abuse

Are nursing homes in California abiding by federal regulations for reporting allegations of elder abuse or neglect?  According to a recent report released by the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), not all facilities are reporting incidents of nursing home abuse.

Reporting Requirements and IncrHHSeasing Rates of Elder Abuse

The HHS report emphasized that about five million elderly Americans (or ten percent of the elderly population) sustain injuries from physical abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation.  However, these crimes are not always reported.

Under federal regulations, nursing home residents “must not be subjected to abuse by anyone, including, but not limited to, facility staff.”  In addition, those nursing home residents have “the right to be free from mistreatment, neglect, and misappropriation of property.”

When it comes to reporting, all nursing facilities that are Medicare and/or Medicaid-certified “must report alleged violations involving mistreatment, neglect, or abuse, including injuries of unknown source and misappropriation of property.”  Any allegations of abuse or neglect must be reported to “the facility administrator or designee and the State survey agency within 24 hours.”  Additionally, the results of investigations that take place following a report of abuse must be reported within five working days to the same state authorities.

Federal law also requires “owners, operators, employees, managers, agents, or contractors of nursing facilities” to report any “reasonable suspicions of crimes.”  In other words, if you are affiliated with a nursing home, you are very likely required to report signs or allegations of elder abuse.

Methods and Conclusions of the HHS Study

HHS undertook the study to protect the health and safety of nursing home residents, especially given that the elderly population is on the rise.  HHS researchers reviewed policies on abuse reporting and policies related to reporting suspicious incidents at a sample of nursing homes across the country; it also conducted surveys of administrators at those facilities.  The study took a close look at the allegations that were reported.

The researchers came to some of the following conclusions:

  • 85 percent of nursing homes sampled reported at least one allegation of nursing home abuse or neglect in 2012;
  • 76 percent of those nursing homes had clear policies that addressed federal regulations for reporting;
  • 61 percent of nursing homes kept documentation about their compliance with federal reporting regulations;
  • 53 percent of allegations likely were reported properly.

In short, a number of nursing homes are reporting some incidents of elder abuse, but it is quite likely that only about half of all nursing facilities are properly reporting all incidents of abuse or neglect that take place.

If your elderly parent or loved one may have been the victim of nursing home abuse, it is important to contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer.  Even the smallest signs and symptoms can cause reason to worry, and you should always speak with an elder justice advocate about your case.

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