A recent investigation by the Health and Human Services inspector general's office revealed some sobering facts about senior care and reporting issues in the country. The government audit revealed that some incidents of possible nursing home abuse were not being immediately reported to law enforcement, as required by a federal law. The investigators fault Medicare for not enforcing the existing law. Pennsylvania ranked ninth in the study for number of emergency room visits due to suspected abuse.
When a nursing home resident visits the emergency room due to possible abuse, federal law mandates that it must be reported within two hours if serious bodily injury occurs and within 24 hours otherwise. The inspector general's office compiled data from a large sampling of 33 states, finding 134 cases of ER visits due to possible neglect or abuse over a two-year period. Of those 134 cases, 28 percent were not reported to the authorities. In four of five cases not reported to the authorities, the incidents were related to alleged sexual abuse.
The investigators charged Medicare with having inadequate procedures to ensure that incidents are reported in a timely manner. The investigators also said that, in the cases of incidents that were reported to authorities, it was unclear whether they were reported in a timely manner. As more and more people live into their 80s and 90s, the issue is predicted to become more widespread, and steps must be taken to assure resident safety.
Individuals in Pennsylvania have the right to be free from nursing home abuse and neglect. If an individual believes that abuse has occurred, there are steps that can be taken to address the issue. A knowledgeable elder law attorney can provide needed assistance for those who wish to pursue a legal case.