Recent Elder Abuse Cases Prompt Look at Nursing Home Laws Liability

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Two former nursing home workers from Jonesboro, Georgia, were indicted by a grand jury this November on charges they abused one of the Alzheimer's patients in their care.

Jermeller Steed and Cicely Reed have been charged with false imprisonment and battering a patient for the 2008 incident. The 89-year-old victim was restrained while the two women used a shower hose to run water over the victim's face, simulating drowning similar to the controversial torture technique, waterboarding.

Abuse Is Common

Unfortunately, nursing home abuse like this happens more often than families may realize. This May, two residents of the Winterville Retirement Center were victims of theft and assault. One resident, an Alzheimer's patient, complained to his family that someone was stealing his money. Employee Sherrye Dianne Huff was charged with five felonies — three counts of theft and two counts of exploitation — and a criminal misdemeanor for theft.

Another Winterville Retirement Center employee has been charged with the assault of another Alzheimer's patient who took butter off a food cart; the resident later died and investigators may change the assault charge to homicide if they find that physical abuse contributed to the resident's death. Sadly, around the time of the assault, yet another employee stole the victim's prescription medications.

These incidents point to the prevalence of one of the most underreported crimes: elder abuse. The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that for every reported abuse case, there are five cases that go unreported.

Georgia's Response to Problem of Abuse

Fortunately, the state of Georgia has taken steps to increase elder abuse reporting and has formulated regulations to protect nursing home residents. It is mandatory for nursing home employees to report abuse, neglect or exploitation of residents; failing to do so can result in a criminal misdemeanor. The Division of Aging Services operates a hotline so employees, residents and families can report abuse, neglect or exploitation if they suspect or observe it.

The Department of Human Services has developed safety regulations for Georgia's nursing homes. All facilities must have protocol in place to prevent the spread of infection among residents, employees and visitors. Medications are strongly encouraged to be administered by a licensed nurse, and residents may only be restrained with a signed physician's order.

As the recent cases show, elder abuse is a serious crime that can carry felony charges. It is also possible for victims of elder abuse to pursue damages through the court system through a personal injury lawsuit. If you suspect a loved one has been abused or neglected by the employees at their nursing home, please contact an experienced personal injury attorney.