The use of resources such as wills, trusts, power of attorneys, and guardians can be vital for those who have family and loved ones living in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. However, there are some resources or services that are sometimes used to hurt, abuse, or neglect the very person they are meant to protect. Most states, including N.C., have laws and regulations that are designed for the protection of the elderly or disabled adults.
North Carolina has established the “Protection of the Abused, Neglected, or Exploited Disabled Adult Act.” This act is oftentimes used to protect disabled adults who are being abused, neglected or exploited. Abuse refers to knowingly causing physical pain, injury, or mental suffering, holding or confining a disabled adult for no reason, or a caretaker intentionally denying medical services or services needed to maintain mental and physical health. Caretakers can be family members or anyone who volunteers or is contracted to be responsible for the care of a disabled adult. Neglect refers to situations that involve disabled adults who live alone and are not able to care for themselves or disabled adults who have caretakers that are not providing appropriate care or services. Exploitation occurs when someone illegally uses a disabled adults’ resources to make money or for their own personal advantage. Anyone who knows or has a reason to believe that a disabled adult is being abused, neglected, or exploited has a duty to report this information to the Department of Social of Services director in the county that the abused adult lives in.
Once the DSS director receives a report concerning the possible abuse of a disabled adult, the director will perform or arrange for a DSS worker to perform an evaluation of the situation to determine if protective services are needed and if so what services DSS needs to provide. If DSS determines that a disabled adult is in need of protective services, the director has the authority to make arrangements for services to begin immediately if the disable adult agrees. In cases where the disable adult has agreed to allow DSS to provide protective services, but the caretaker is trying to prevent or block those services the director can obtain a court order that will keep the caretaker from intruding. However, if the abused adult refuses to allow DSS to provide protective services, those services will not be provided. On the other hand, if the abused adult does not have the ability to consent or give DSS permission to provide the services, the director can get a court order that will give DSS the authority to provide the services.
Furthermore, anyone that is involved in the abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a disabled or elderly person could endure severe consequences. For example, activities or actions of individuals that involve the exploitation of a disabled or elderly adult could result in that person being criminally charged with a felony. The amount of money or property involved in the actions will determine the level or seriousness of the crime. Additionally, any persons or workers in a facility that are responsible for providing care for a disabled or elderly person could be criminally charged or sued in civil court for certain actions of abuse or neglect.
Not only is it always important to know your rights, but it is also important to know the rights of those who aren’t able to protect themselves. Contact an attorney to learn more about the rights of disabled or elderly adults and laws and regulation used to help protect them. Be Informed. Be Prepared.
Bellonora McCallum is an attorney at the McCallum Law Firm, PLLC, in Rockingham. Reach her at 910-730-4064 or visit www.mccallumlawfirm.com.