Important Laws That Protect the Elderly

Elderly woman sitting with her caregiver. Whether we like it or not, our parents, friends and other loved ones will someday become old and frail, and will need to reach out to others for help with life’s everyday activities. But how do you ensure that your elderly loved one is being properly cared for?

Well, in the United States of America (U.S.), we have recognized senior adults as a potentially vulnerable segment of the population and passed special laws to protect their unique interests.

Right to Privacy

American seniors have the right to financial and medical privacy, provided that another individual does not have power of attorney over their financial or medical decisions. The right to privacy is often essential in protecting seniors against financial abuse, a difficult situation under which caregivers might attempt to get additional money or other material possessions in exchange for their care.

Financial abuse is an incredibly common type of abuse, and it may be committed in a variety of ways; a caregiver might convince a senior to put them in their will, or might ask for money for certain things. Abusers could even steal a senior’s identity under the assumption that they won’t notice.

Right to Mental, Physical and Emotional Support

Seniors in the U.S. have the right to receive health care, regardless of the type of service necessary. Caregivers that neglect their loved ones or do not seek the appropriate medical treatment in a timely manner are in violation of elder abuse and neglect laws.

It is a caregiver’s responsibility to ensure that their charges are taken care of on every level. If you suspect your elderly loved one is not getting the health care they need — whether it be psychological or physical — you should contact someone immediately.

Rights of Nursing Home Patients

Residents of nursing homes receive additional protections under U.S. law. There are many rights outlined by the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act to be aware of. These rights include:

  • The right to be treated with dignity.
  • The right to freedom from abuse, mistreatment and neglect.
  • The right to privacy.
  • The right to freedom from physical and chemical restraints.
  • The right to communicate freely.
  • The right to accommodation of medical, physical, psychological and social needs.
  • The right to voice grievances without discrimination or reprisal.
  • The right to participate in resident and family groups.
  • The right to participate in a review of one’s care plan.

If any of these rights are violated, you may wish to seek legal counsel on behalf of your loved one. You should also notify family or friends of any rights violations that do occur, so that they can help you through the situation and check in with you on a regular basis.

Protecting a Loved One From Abuse

Warning signs of abuse could include suddenly putting out a large amount of money towards someone outside of the family, seeming dirty or unkempt or being unusually withdrawn. Elderly residents of nursing homes that experience abuse may have dirty fingernails and hair, and they may experience dramatic personality shifts — such as suddenly becoming non-verbal.

A lawyer that specializes in elder abuse and elder care law will be able to help you in determining whether rights have been infringed upon. If you suspect your elderly loved one has been the victim of emotional, physical or financial abuse, view our directory of U.S. Helplines & Hotlines for Suspected Elder Abuse and contact your local authorities.

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