When people consider elder abuse they often think of strangers taking advantage of or physically harming the elderly.
When people consider elder abuse they often think of nameless strangers taking advantage of or physically harming or neglecting the elderly. However, it is becoming increasingly more common that the perpetrator of the abuse is a beloved family member of the abused.
The reasons for taking advantage of or neglecting an elderly relative are many, from wanting cash and preserving an inheritance to needing money for bills and expenses. However, it is not always those with nefarious motives that end up abusing or neglecting the elderly. Gwen Orlowski, director of the New Jersey Division of Elder Advocacy, notes that even relatives "with the best intentions" may end up "mistreating their love ones unintentionally through frustration or exhaustion."
Orlowski also noted that only a few cases are reported to New Jersey law enforcement because "many incidents don't rise to the level of a crime."
What can be done to protect the elderly from relatives who seek to take advantage of them or harm them? For one, New Jersey social service agencies can seek to have an offending relative's power of attorney or guardianship rights removed.
In 2007, there were 2,249 cases of abuse, neglect or exploitation of the elderly. In 2008, the number climbed to 2,492. David Ricci, the coordinator of New Jersey Adult Protective Services, expects the number to grow even further when the total number of cases for 2009 is counted. While these numbers may include more than strictly abuse by a relative, elder abuse appears to be a growing issue in New Jersey.
Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities
Elder abuse can take many forms and can generally be defined as doing or failing to do an act that results in the risk of harm or harm of an elderly person. Abuse can be sexual, emotional, physical, exploitation or neglect. While elder abuse and neglect happens at the hands of loved ones, abuse and neglect also occur in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
In New Jersey there is a difference between nursing homes and assisted living facilities. New Jersey provides nursing home residents with a Bill of Rights to protect their safety and prevent abuses. Assisted living facilities are bound by a separate set of regulations, which are similar yet distinct from the statutes governing nursing homes.
Along with the statutory/regulatory difference between nursing homes and assisted living facilities, there is a general, practical difference. Assisted living facilities generally provide less care than nursing homes. Thus, if a loved one is still independent and, for the most part, able to care for themselves, then an assisted living facility may be the appropriate setting. However, if a loved one is less independent and needs assistance on a more regular basis, a nursing home may be the best place for them.
Nursing Home Resident's Bill of Rights
To help protect the elderly and prevent abuse in nursing homes, the state of New Jersey has established the Nursing Home Resident's Bill of Rights.
According to the Resident's Bill of Rights, nursing home residents have certain rights, including:
According to the Resident's Bill of Rights, nursing homes are required to do certain responsibilities, including:
If a nursing home is found liable for violating a resident's rights or failing to perform any affirmative duties, the resident is able to recover punitive and actual damages, attorney's fees and costs.
Assisted Living Facilities
The rights of residents of assisted living facilities are established in the New Jersey Administrative Code. Though these rights are similar to those given in the Nursing Home Resident's Bill of Rights, there are differences. Specifically, assisted living facilities are exempt from the recourse available under the nursing home statutes. However, those that suffer abuse while at an assisted living facility have recourse through a negligence action.
Generally, to bring a successful negligence action against an assisted living facility the following elements will need to be met:
Possible Signs of Abuse or Neglect
If you suspect that an elderly relative is suffering abuse or neglect at the hands of a relative, nursing home or assisted living facility, there are warning signs that you can look for.
Possible warning signs of abuse include:
Possible warning signs of neglect include:
Suspect Elderly Abuse? Contact an Attorney.
If a loved one has been the victim of elder abuse at the hands of a relative, a nursing home or an assisted living facility, call an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss possible legal actions.
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