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Is elder neglect a crime?

Placing your loved one in a nursing may be one of the most difficult decisions you have ever made. Not only does it remove your family member from every familiar place, but it forces you to relinquish much of the control you may have had over your loved one’s care. However, you are not alone. For the families of over three million Americans, this choice may have been necessary for the wellbeing of their loved ones.

This is one reason why is can be quite upsetting to suspect your loved one is not receiving the quality of care you expect and pay for. If you discover that the staff of your family member’s nursing facility is neglecting your loved one, you may have many questions about how to respond and what your options are.

What should you expect from a nursing home?

West Virginia and most other states have clear laws prohibiting the neglect of elderly or incapacitated residents of a nursing home. While each state may have slight variations in their laws, the general understanding of neglect includes denying a resident those essentials that are basic to life and health, including:

  • Appropriate supervision and assistance, such as help going to the bathroom
  • Services for bathing and basic hygiene
  • Proper food and fluids to maintain health and hydration
  • Prompt medical care when ill or injured
  • Clean and adequate clothing suitable for West Virginia seasons
  • A safe and controlled environment
  • Treatment that protects your loved one’s dignity

While the neglect of your loved one is certainly illegal, this does not necessarily mean that those responsible will face criminal charges. For example, if your loved one receives substandard care because of staffing issues or a lack of training, the nursing home may have to respond to state or federal authorities, and you may consider filing a civil claim on behalf of your loved one.

However, if you suspect the neglect or abuse occurred routinely or intentionally, or if it resulted in the serious injury or death of your loved one, you may have cause for a more comprehensive legal action, and authorities may consider criminal charges. You might find your case difficult to prove, especially if your loved one is unable to describe the events. Nevertheless, with a legal ally, you may have the support you need to pursue justice for your family member.

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