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Studies show many elder abuse cases go unreported

Two new studies show that nursing home abuse is being underreported in Ohio and the rest of the U.S. Both have been published by the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The trend here should be of concern to everyone because when abuse is not reported, it cannot be investigated and tracked.

The first report analyzed Medicare claims from 2016 that involved the kind of injuries that might indicate nursing home neglect or abuse, either physical or sexual. These included head trauma, bruises and bed sores. In nearly 20% of these cases, nursing homes failed to report the injuries to the state's proper inspection agency.

State inspectors themselves, at least those in the study, were found to disagree as to which cases should be referred to law enforcement. One inspection agency said that it only referred the "most serious" cases to police.

The second study looked at over 30,000 potential elder abuse cases that arose between January 2015 and June 2017. This one was not limited to nursing homes. Nearly a third of those cases were not referred to police or to Adult Protective Services. The report recommends that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services examine treatment claims for possible signs of abuse. CMS has rejected this and other recommendations.

If nursing home abuse or neglect is uncovered, it can provide the basis for a nursing home injury case. This will fall under medical malpractice law. Families of the victims may want to see an attorney who works in this field of law. The attorney, with the help of investigators, might be able to obtain proof of negligence. For example, the nursing home may not have held up strict hiring standards for its nurses. The attorney may then strive for a settlement.

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