A California law that took effect on January 1 expands the requirements for caretakers to report abuse at nursing homes and assisted living centers. According to a news report in the Napa Valley Register, advocates for the elderly hope that Assembly Bill 40′s new requirements will help bring crimes against one of the most vulnerable sections of our population to light, in a prompt manner.
Officials say the purpose of the legislation is to ensure that elder abuse crimes are reported so they can be investigated. AB 40′s key provision “effectively doubles the reporting duties of those required by state law to share knowledge of the physical abuse, abandonment, neglect, isolation or financial abuse of residents” in nursing homes, the report states. Earlier, such crimes would be reported to the care center’s ombudsman or a law enforcement agency. Now, a so-called mandated reporter, who could be an employee, supervisor or administrator, must notify both.
Prompt and Expanded Reporting
AB 40 also addresses the issue of nursing home abuse or neglect not being reported in a timely manner. The law requires “mandated reporters” to contact the authorities by phone and in writing within two hours after learning about the suspected physical abuse of a resident that resulted in serious injury or within 24 hours of a non-injury incident. Under this new law, failing to report is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
Justice for Victims
As a nursing home abuse lawyer in California who represents victims of elder abuse, I certainly hope that this new law will encourage more nursing homes and their workers to act quickly on complaints. Elder abuse incidents are some of the most under-reported crimes in California and elsewhere in the nation. This is because many seniors who depend on a nursing home or a caregiver feel intimidated and pushed into a corner. The law in some ways gives the elderly a voice. Instances of physical abuse and neglect that are rampant in California’s nursing homes should be reported and the wrongdoers must be held accountable.