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American Society on Aging workshop on elder abuse in long-term care

On Thursday, March 13, 2014, the American Society on Aging conference will present an interactive workshop on Isolation: Elder Abuse in Long-Term Care. The workshop will take place from 1:00 – 2:30 PM in Regatta B (4th floor, Harbor Tower) of the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego. Workshop presenters are Linda Kincaid, MPH and Robert Fettgather, PhD.

The abstract for the workshop explains:

Social isolation and loneliness increase adverse health outcomes, including depression, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Social isolation is also a risk factor for elder maltreatment.

However, some long-term care facilities prohibit visitors, phone calls, and mail. Residents have been isolated from loved ones for years. Law enforcement rarely intervenes. Isolated residents have no access to legal representation. Heirs lack legal standing until the death of the victim. Families of victims may find no remedy at law when a loved one is isolated in a facility.

The presenters will discuss case studies and their investigations of unlawful isolation in long-term care facilities.

Case studies indicate California long-term care facilities often ignore residents’ personal rights. False imprisonment and forced isolation are common. Law enforcement rarely assists elder abuse victims.

In a San Bernardino County survey, most assisted living facilities stated they will isolate residents. One resident was unlawfully isolated for fifteen months. The investigating deputy and Deputy District Attorney determined the situation was a civil matter.

In Santa Clara County, an assisted living resident was unlawfully isolated for over two years. San Jose Police and a Deputy District Attorney determined the situation was a civil matter. California’s Director of Social Services stated the extended isolation was not a violation of the resident’s right to visitation.

The research demonstrated a need for education across all levels of law enforcement and social services agencies. Important points include (1) false imprisonment is a crime, (2) isolation is a crime, (3) mental abuse is a crime. Knowledge gained in this session can be applied by all professions that address ling-term care and elder rights.

Presenters list the following learning objectives for the workshop.

False imprisonment and isolation of elders constitute abuse and are crimes. Residents in assisted living and skilled nursing facilities have the same right to leave the facility and to have visitors as do individuals in their own homes.

Restrictive visiting hours in assisted living or skilled nursing facilities constitute isolation and are crimes. Residents have the same right to visit with guests as they do in their own homes.

Mental abuse of an elder is a crime. Residents in assisted living and skilled nursing facilities have the same right to respect and dignity as do individuals in their own homes.

California has enhanced civil penalties for elder abuse. However, lack of standing and exorbitant litigation costs place civil remedies beyond the reach of many victims.

California has enhanced criminal penalties for elder abuse. However, local law enforcement and prosecutors often consider elder abuse to be a civil matter. Criminal prosecution is rare.