Family attorney Phil Newman discusses what to do if you suspect that an elderly loved one is being abused or neglected by a caregiver.
My longtime friend and colleague Phil Newman lost his mom last year. He has written beautifully about their relationship and the pain of losing a parent, at any age.
Because Phil is both a family attorney and was recently a scared son who had to make tough decisions about care for his mother, I asked him for advice about what to do if you’re worried about a family member in long-term care or looking into a claim on behalf of a client.
His answer was short and very much to the point:
HAL HUMPHREYS: Really, just one question for you this week, Phil: If you suspect or one of your clients suspects that their loved one is being taken advantage of, being abused or neglected, in an eldercare facility or by home health care, as a lawyer, what do you suggest a person do?
PHIL NEWMAN: I’ve been through this situation myself with my mom on a personal level. What I would do first is go and talk with the director of the facility and find out what kind of procedures, safeguards, they have in place. After that, if you felt your concerns weren’t being addressed — there was medication being left in the room for example, not being properly administered — you can go through the Department of Health. And I believe most states would have a procedure like this.
Talk with the director of the facility and find out what kind of procedures, safeguards, they have in place.
PHIL: In Tennessee you could talk to the office, they’d open a file, if there was a need to do an investigation, they would do that. Sometimes they will suspend admitting new patients while they do an investigation — anonymously. So they don’t know what patient it was, which family or resident’s family. Typically you describe what your concerns are, what’s going on, and if it rises to the level of something they need to investigate, they’ll do an investigation in person.
HAL: I just looked it up. If you Google “Tennessee elder abuse” the first response is TN.gov – Elder Abuse. Regardless, pretty much every state will have some resource like that. At what point would you get an attorney involved if you had concerns?
PHIL: On a personal level, if I felt like the state wasn’t addressing it, or if I felt like something had happened, like if I had a relative that fell and broke a hip or sustained an injury, the point with these facilities is for the families to be as present as you can be. Be there a lot so they know who you are, who your relative is.
I don’t know that I would involve a lawyer, or if a lawyer would even get involved, until there was an incident that caused injury. I would first go to the state and try to get an investigation done. And really, it depends upon the level of negligence or what’s going on.
HAL: Phil, thank you so much for taking the call!
About the guest:
Phil Newman practices family law, including divorce and post-divorce proceedings, child support and parenting plan modifications, parental relocations, and juvenile court matters. He’s also listed as a Rule 31 mediator with expertise in collaborative divorce and collaborative practice. He has successfully kept more than 250 civil litigation and family cases out of court through mediation.