Elder abuse is more common than most people think. As the elderly population continues to grow, elder abuse may continue to increase. Elder abuse may constitute a criminal offense for the offenders. For victims and their families, they may seek a civil claim to compensate them for their injuries, damages, and pain and suffering. If you suspect a loved one may be a victim of elder abuse, contact an experienced attorney to put a stop to the abuse.
Maryland Elder Abuse Laws
Elder abuse is a violation of state and federal laws. Both Maryland and federal laws protect vulnerable adults from neglect, self-neglect, abuse, or exploitation. Not all abuse has to be physical or sexual. Abuse can include emotional abuse or neglect that causes harm to a vulnerable adult who lacks the physical or mental capacity to provide for their daily needs.
Maryland law defines neglect as, “the willful deprivation of a vulnerable adult of adequate food, clothing, essential medical treatment or habilitative therapy, shelter, or supervision.” Self-neglect is the inability to provide services that are necessary for the individual's physical and mental health, the absence of which impairs their well-being. Abuse includes any physical injury as a result of cruel or inhumane treatment or as a result of a malicious act by any person.
In some cases, abuse comes in the form of exploitation. Exploitation includes any action which involves the misuse of a vulnerable adult's funds, property, or person. This could involve a caretaker stealing money or other property, forcing the vulnerable adult to sign over property, or using the elderly individual's money to pay for unrelated expenses for the caretaker.
Unfortunately, exploitation often involves a family member caring for an elderly adult. The caretaker may feel like they deserve the money or property because they are the one taking care of the family member. Family members may try and justify exploiting the elderly as a way to pay for their time and services. However, exploitation is still considered a form of elder abuse.
Nursing Home Abuse
Residents in nursing homes are protected by state and federal laws, including the Nursing Home Reform Act. This established basic rights and services for nursing home residents, including a bill of rights. These rights include:
- The right to free choice in choosing their doctor, and to be informed about care and treatment;
- The right to be free from abuse, mistreatment, and neglect;
- The right to be free from physical or chemical restraints;
- The right to privacy;
- The right to confidentiality;
- The right to accommodation of physical, mental, and social needs;
- The right to participation in resident and family groups;
- The right to be treated with dignity and respect;
- The right to exercise self-determination;
- The right to free communication;
- The right to participate in the review of their care, treatment, care plan, or change of status in the facility; and
- The right to express grievances without retaliation or discrimination.
Mandatory Reporting of Suspected Elder Abuse
Under Maryland law, whenever a police officer, human service worker, or health practitioner has reason to believe a vulnerable adult has been subjected to abuse, neglect, self-neglect, or exploitation, they have to report the suspected abuse. Reports should be made as soon as possible, and include all the information that would help determine the cause of the suspected abuse, and the identity of any individual responsible. Failure to report suspected elder abuse can result in legal penalties.
Signs of Elder Abuse
Many people may be unsure what to look for if they suspect an elderly family member may be suffering abuse. There are a number of warning signs that could indicate abuse or neglect, including:
- Pressure Marks
- Sudden Changes in Alertness
- Withdrawal from Normal Activities
- Bruises Around the Genital Areas
- Changes in Bank Accounts or Finances
- Poor Hygiene
- Unusual Weight Loss
- Frequent Arguments with a Caregiver
Suspected abuse should be reported to the local Maryland Adult Protective Services, or the Maryland Department of Human Resources.
Elder Abuse Lawyers
If you suspect an elderly parent or family member may be suffering abuse, you may not know where to turn. The caretakers or nursing home may or may not be aware of the abuse. They may claim they will take care of the problem, only to ignore it. Your loved one needs an advocate to fight for them and make sure they get the compensation they deserve for their pain and suffering. If you or someone you love has been injured through elder abuse, please contact the team at Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.