Nursing home abuse is a constant problem that appears to be worsening as more baby boomers turn 65 every year. With a growing number of for-profit elder care facilities in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania, the chances for residents to be abused or neglected increases as well. We have posted previously on this problem, as well as the reasons behind it. Essentially, for-profit organizations are more likely to be understaffed (in order to cut costs and maintain profitability) that non-profit centers.
Compounding this problem is the lack of criminal enforcement. A recent Philly.com article highlighted the number of unresolved elder abuse cases in Philadelphia County. As such, the district attorney has established a special task force to address the backlog of cases. Essentially, the Elder Justice Project will focus on complaints provided by individual citizens as well as elder abuse organizations such as the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging.
The importance of the project was compelling given that 276,000 residents in Philadelphia are age 60 or older. The number makes up 17 percent of the city’s population, which is the highest in the nation among comparable cities.
The task force is also important in establishing civil liability in abuse cases. As a matter of law, criminal convictions can form the basis of negligence claims, because it provides a prima facie (first glance) showing that the nursing home failed to use the level of care necessary to properly care for a resident.
With elder abuse being a continuing issue, we expect more district attorneys in New Jersey to adopt similar programs.
Source: Philly.com, Rise in senior abuse case prompts D.A. to step up to protect elderly, February 19, 2013