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Was your loved one victimized by sexual abuse in nursing homes?

Last month, the inspector general for Health and Human Services issued its "early alert" on initial information involving sexual abuse at nursing homes in 33 states in the nation. Ohio was one of those states.

Researchers are alarmed at the preliminary findings that require immediate corrective action. Over 25 percent of cases involving physical and sexual abuse of residents of the nation's nursing homes did not get reported to local police, the audit found. This is a direct violation of federal laws stating that assaults on Medicare patients must be reported immediately.

Nationwide, nearly 1.5 million adults permanently reside in nursing homes. Considering that 80 percent of the unreported incidents were alleged to involve rape or other forms of sexual abuse, many of these residents may be living in fear in unsafe surroundings.

Auditors combed through charts spanning one two-year period. They discovered 134 incidents where medical records from emergency room visits indicated that residents may have been subjected to neglect or abuse. Seven of those incidents took place at nursing homes here in Ohio.

While there has been a federal statute on the books for over five years that mandates these events get reported immediately, without Medicare enforcing the reporting requirement and subsequent fines of as much as $300,000, the effort lacks teeth.

If you learn or suspect that your loved one was victimized by sexual abuse while a resident at an Ohio nursing home, you must be proactive for him or her. You may be the only pair of watchful eyes on the situation.

Discussing your concerns with a legal professional can clarify your options and provide you with a route to justice.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, "Abuse in nursing homes often unreported," Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar The Associated Press, accessed Oct. 20, 2017

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