In Connecticut, it’s illegal to abuse a person who is 60 years of age or older, with “abuse” being an act or omission occurring at least two times that results in physical or serious physical injury. Individuals convicted of elder abuse may be sentenced up to 10 years in prison, be required to pay a $10,000 fine, or both, depending on the case’s severity.
Legally, “neglect” is considered the failure to exercise care most people would typically provide in ordinary situations. When neglect or abuse is suspected within a skilled nursing facility within Connecticut, staff and health professionals are legally required to report the incident to the Department of Social Services within 72 hours. DSS, then, notifies the state’s chief attorney, who then decides to bring criminal charges. If nothing is found, DSS sends a report within five days, or if there’s evidence of abuse, neglect, abandonment, or exploitation, an investigation starts within 10 days and finishes within five.
Nevertheless, before the legal process begins, multiple signs point to negligence or abuse:
• Sudden weight loss
• Bed sores or pressure ulcers
• Withdrawn or changed behavior
• Lack of friendly interaction with family, staff, or residents
• Environmental hazards, such as poor lighting, slippery floors, or unsafe equipment and furniture
Typically, negligence or abuse in a nursing home stems from one or more of the following instances:
• Falls – A situation that can be avoided accounts for 36 percent of all hospital visits for the elderly and 1,800 deaths per year. 10 to 20 percent of these cases result in serious injury. A resident may display bruises, cuts, or abrasions or may have a fear of getting up and moving around.
• Emotional and social neglect – Hospital staff repeatedly ignores or yells at residents, or leaves them alone for long periods of time.
• Lack of hygiene — Staff does not exercise basic care in laundry, bathing, and cleaning a resident.
• Failure to provide basic needs — Workers do not provide food, water, or a safe, clean environment to residents.
• Medical neglect — Nursing staff does not give adequate attention to or fails to provide treatment for bed sores, cuts, diabetes, mobility issues, or cognitive concerns.
• False imprisonment
• Financial abuse — This may include staff stealing money or possessions from a resident, or convincing your family member to sign for a loan or include the worker in a will.
Keep in mind that signs of neglect may not always be evident, and one of the best ways of identifying them is visiting your loved one frequently. If the situation is dire enough that filing a report becomes necessary, prepare for any legal issues, as the DSS does its investigation, by working with a trial attorney experienced in nursing home negligence and elderly abuse.