March 2023

Elder Law Update

Those who find themselves in the care of a nursing home or assisted living facility are often some of the most vulnerable members of the population. Although nursing home care offers multiple benefits to seniors and can significantly enhance their quality of life, data collected over the past few years points to a disturbing pattern. Nursing home elder abuse is characterized by either the intentional or unintentional mistreatment of elderly individuals who reside in assisted living facilities. According to a 2020 survey conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), a staggering 66% of staff admitted to abusing those under their care. Since this figure is only dependent upon those who professed to wrongdoing, the number is likely even higher. Sadly, as many as one in three nursing home residents have reported some variety of abuse. Before preventive measures can be employed to protect victims, it is important to first become educated on contributing factors which may lead to abuse, identify the different types of elder abuse, and learn what to look for if you suspect a loved one is suffering in silence.




Unfit caretakers who have not undergone proper training or been vetted properly can contribute to elder abuse. People who are underqualified for elderly care can become easily frustrated with residents and may lack the knowledge and patience to cope with the demanding job. Some take out their frustration on residents, physically or mentally, which can lead to severe trauma. Staff shortages can result in neglect and if left unchecked can lead to extended isolation and inhumane conditions.


While anyone can be the victim of abuse, elders who fall under certain minority groups can find themselves at a higher risk. Justice Quarterly published a study that revealed that females are the targets of 67% of all elder abuse cases.

The decision to enter a nursing home is often due to ongoing physical or mental conditions that require constant care and supervision. The National Council of Aging reports those suffering from mental illness or impairments account for 50% of reported instances of abuse. Identifying as a member of LGBTQ+ contributed to 8% of physical abuse by a caregiver. Veterans who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from time in combat may require a higher level of medical treatment and be combative which can heighten the likelihood of abuse.




Sexual: Although sexual abuse can be considered as a form a physical abuse, it is also mentally and emotionally scarring. Abuse constitutes any variety of unwanted sexual contact whether it be touching, forced nudity, taking sexually explicit photographs or recordings of the individual, oral sex or even rape. Because of their impaired memory and communication skills, those with dementia are at a higher risk for suffering this type of abuse. Some warning signs include bruising around inner thighs, genital areas or breasts, unexplained sexually transmitted diseases or infections and genital bleeding. Not all signs are physical. Be cognizant of sudden agitation, symptoms of withdrawal, panic attacks or PTSD symptoms, sleep disturbances and fear or avoidance of certain caregivers.


Physical: Intentionally causing physical harm to a resident including pushing, hitting, and kicking constitutes physical abuse. Look out for any broken bones or fractures, bruises, welts, or lacerations. The victim may act skittish or timid around their abuser so take note of any unusual interactions with staff members.


Neglect: Leaving residents unattended for long periods of time can result in severe dehydration, malnutrition, bedsores, sepsis and even wrongful death. Neglectful caregivers may ignore resident’s requests, fail to change soiled clothing and sheets or not provide necessary medications or nutrition. If a loved one appears to have lost weight, has poor hygiene or seems generally unkept, they may be suffering from neglect. Pay attention to the condition of the room and general cleanliness of the facility.




If you suspect abuse is taking place in a nursing home or care facility, start by taking notes and gathering evidence. Regularly check on your loved ones so you can properly track any changes in behavior, physical appearance, or emotional wellbeing.


Address your concerns with supervisors, nursing directors, doctors, administrators, and social workers. If the abuse is not investigated, addressed, or resolved then contact your local Long-Term Care Ombudsman program or Adult Protective Services. These agencies check on the welfare of nursing home residents to determine if abuse is taking place.


Even if you exhaust all your resources, federal and state nursing home abuse laws are in place to ensure nursing facilities provide the highest quality care to residents. When they fail to protect residents by leaving abuse claims unchecked or if elders sustain serious or life-threatening injuries, you may be entitled to compensation. Discussing options with your attorney will help you determine whether or not your case meets the requirements for an elder abuse lawsuit and what your next steps may be.


As of 2022, the average monthly cost of a semi-private room in an American nursing home was estimated at around $8,000 and $9,300 for a private room. These figures represent the national average and actual costs are dependent on location and the level of care required. Visit Genworth to stay informed on fees associated with extended nursing home care. As of 2023, data shows over 1,246,079 residents living in nursing homes in the United States. An estimated 70% of people who reach the age of 65 will require long-term care at some point.

Many families find themselves draining their savings accounts to accommodate a loved one who has entered a nursing facility. The already staggering costs of care rise annually and will continue to do so. As a federal and state program, Medicaid assists with healthcare costs for people with limited resources and provides benefits not normally covered by Medicare, including nursing home care. The program has contributed to half of all nursing home stays.


A Medicaid Crisis refers to someone who is already living in a nursing home or who needs to enter a home within a short period of time and possesses too many assets to qualify for Medicaid eligibility. Without Medicaid assistance, many families will find themselves scrambling to pay hefty nursing home bills.


Within months, people can lose their family homes and feel as if they are headed for financial ruin. Enlisting the help of an elder law attorney is critical when trying to maneuver the murky process of Medicaid eligibility. They can assist you with both applications and recertifications. Prior rejection does not mean you will be unable to obtain financial assistance now or in the future. Elder law attorneys can offer guidance and clarify any misinformation you may have heard along the way.


For seniors who find themselves in a Medicaid Crisis, devising a foolproof Medicaid planning strategy is the best way to ensure an application is approved. Timing is a very important part of the planning process. An elder law attorney will take all aspects of a senior’s personal and financial situation into consideration when determining when they should apply and whether additional steps are needed to ensure their application is accepted.


Don’t allow your legacy to be lost to nursing home costs. Implementing preventative measures and legal strategies now can ensure security for you and your loves in the future. Contact our office today to discuss your individual situation.