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Probe finds nursing home abuse goes unreported despite law

North Carolina families who have elderly relatives may be interested to learn that more than one in four cases of potential physical or sexual abuse in nursing homes go unreported, according to the Health and Human Services. This data comes despite a law that requires Medicare to report potential cases to the police.

Approximately 1.4 million people live in nursing homes across the nation. With so many citizens living in these types of facilities, quality is a major concern. Of the potential crimes that went unreported, four out of five allegedly involved suspected sexual abuse or rape. In total, auditors found 134 cases in which medical records suggested that possible physical abuse, sexual abuse or neglect was involved. For 38 of the cases, the investigators did not find any evidence that the police had been called.

Since the results of the probe were only preliminary findings, Medicare stated that it would wait for the complete report before responding to the allegations. The inspector general urged Medicare to take immediate response by analyzing computerized billing records for signs of possible nursing home abuse.

Under federal law, nursing home personnel are required to immediately report suspected crimes that occur against nursing home patients. If they fail to do so, Medicare is responsible for fining the nursing home up to $300,000. However, some nursing homes fail to deal with alleged incidents correctly and in a timely manner. If there is evidence that a loved one suffered nursing home abuse or neglect and the nursing home failed to seek immediate medical care, an attorney could file a lawsuit against the facility and the workers. Depending on the circumstances, the family could be eligible to recover the cost of their loved one's medical care and other associated damages, such as emotional and punitive damages.

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