DeKalb County Uses New State Law to Crackdown on Unlicensed Elderly Care Facilities
Elder abuse and neglect is a serious problem that is growing worse as aging baby boomers stretch available resources to provide appropriate care to seniors. While residents of nursing homes that are inappropriately staffed or funded often experience acts of chronic neglect and even physical or sexual abuse, these facilities are licensed and monitored so that some mistreatment of elderly residents has a chance of being exposed through that process. However, DeKalb County is cracking down on a form of unlicensed care that may be more ominous. Four unlicensed personal care homes (also called group homes) for disabled and elderly residents were shut down, and two caregivers associated with the homes were recently arrested under a new law according to Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) reports.
An AJC report last year found that the most egregious cases of abuse of disabled and elderly adults occur in unlicensed facilities like those closed by police this week. The facilities do not meet minimum licensing standards nor do they get inspected or cited for violations because regulators often do not know that they exist. These personal care homes are similar to a nursing home, but they focus exclusively on providing nutrition, housing and grooming, but not medical care.
A Georgia law became effective in July that permits the police to crackdown on abuse and neglect committed by staff and owners of these facilities by making it a misdemeanor to operate a group home without a license issued from the state. A second offense of the new law constitutes a felony.
The AJC reported that some of the residents in the facilities closed this week had serious psychological issues and needed supervised care while others were bedridden. Six of the residents with these types of serious problems had to be placed in an alternate facility or hospital where they could receive care and supervision from trained professionals in a controlled environment. Signs of neglect at the unlicensed residential care facilities included padlocks on sources of food like refrigerators and empty containers of medication discarded around the facility.
A neighbor who lived next to one of the facilities reported to the AJC that it was apparent that there were problems for over five years. She indicated that residents roamed the neighborhood without supervision, urinated in the front yard and buried their medications in the dirt.
The new Georgia law authorizes law enforcement to investigate unlicensed group homes that officers would not have been able to check on previously without probable cause of a crime. While the new law allows law enforcement to investigate and determine if disabled or elderly residents are being abused, neglected or exploited, legislators are now considering a measure that would go further to protect seniors from abuse and neglect by unlicensed care facilities. The measure (HB 78), which received unanimous approval by House members, would make inflicting cruelty on an elderly or disabled person a felony punishable by a maximum term of 20 years in prison and a maximum $50,000 fine.
While increased investigations and harsher penalties for abuse and neglect of the elderly can reduce mistreatment of seniors by nursing homes, group homes and other residential facilities, elderly residents of nursing homes and group homes remain vulnerable to abuse and neglect.
Our Georgia nursing home injury attorneys at Montlick and Associates are available to provide effective legal representation to clients who suffer nursing home abuse and neglect throughout all of Georgia, including the rural areas in the state and extending to the Southeast. Our attorneys have been helping injured people get the compensation they deserve for 30 years.
No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.