Georgia Neglect to an Elder Person, Resident or Disabled Adult

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 What Is Elder Neglect in Georgia?

Elder neglect is a criminal act that involves failing to provide proper care for individuals who are considered to be disabled or elderly adults. This type of neglect often occurs at home. However, it can also occur in nursing homes or resident facilities where elderly or disabled individuals are not provided with the proper care.

The State of Georgia defines elder neglect as an individual supervising a disabled adult or elderly individual, or resident and willfully depriving that individual of basic care. Basic care includes:

  • Shelter;
  • Healthcare;
  • Anything that is necessary to their well-being.

If an individual has any concerns related to elder neglect in Georgia, they can contact a Georgia elder law lawyer.

Who Is Considered to Be an Elder?

Federal laws, including the Older American Act (OAA), state that an elder is defined as any individual who is at least 60 years old. However, it is important to note that state definitions of elders may vary.

Most states define elderly individuals as individuals who are over 65 years of age. Additionally, individuals who are disabled and over the age of majority, or 18 years in most states, may, in certain cases, also be classified as elderly individuals under both state and federal laws.

What Is Elder Neglect and How Is It Different From Elder Abuse?

Elder neglect, as noted above, occurs when an individual responsible for providing care to an elder fails to provide that care. Victims of elder neglect are most often senior citizens who reside in-home care facilities and are not able to care for themselves on a daily basis.

Many jurisdictions or states distinguish between elder neglect and elder abuse. Elder neglect implies that the elderly victim was neglected because they did not receive proper care and attention.

Examples of elder neglect may include but may not be limited to:

  • Failing to provide for the basic necessities of the elderly individual, such as:
    • food;
    • water;
    • clothing;
    • shelter;
  • Failing to administer medications or treatments to the elderly individual according to the instructions of their physician;
  • Allowing the elderly individual to live in living conditions that are:
    • unreasonable poor;
    • uninhabitable;
    • unsuitable; and
  • Failing to communicate important information to another individual as requested by the elderly individual, especially when that failure results in physical harm to the elder.

Most state laws define elder abuse as conduct that results in physical harm to an elder or striking the elder. It can also include emotional or mental harm that is imposed on an elder.

Certain elder abuse laws include non-consensual sexual contact. In the majority of cases, for a claim of elder abuse to be actionable, the elderly individual must have suffered some type of physical or economic harm, which may include bodily harm or the loss of property.

Who Can Be Held Liable for Neglect?

Generally, if an individual is responsible for caring for an elderly individual, they may be held liable if they are negligent. Parties who may be legally charged with these duties include:

  • Nursing home staff;
  • Caregivers who live with the elder;
  • Those who provide respite care;
  • Medical professionals; or
  • A relative or friend who has assumed legal responsibility for the elderly individual.

Who Cannot Be Accused of Elder Neglect in Georgia?

There are certain individuals who cannot be held liable for elder neglect in the State of Georgia, including:

  • A physician who is working for a:
    • hospital;
    • hospice;
    • long-term care facility;
  • Someone providing care in good faith according to their employment, such as a nurse at a hospital;
  • A guardian who is acting in good faith by providing spiritual treatment alone instead of medical treatment.

These individuals are not held liable to help ensure that proper medical care plans and religious freedom are not hindered by these laws. It is important to note that if an elder is a resident of a nursing home, the Nursing Home Reform Act, which includes the Nursing Home Residents Bill of Rights, provides elders with certain rights, including:

  • The right to be free from abuse;
  • The right to privacy;
  • The right to make a complaint against the nursing home facility without facing retaliation or discrimination;
  • The right to be treated with dignity.

In addition, it is important to be aware of the signs of nursing home abuse, which may include:

  • Bruises, bedsores, or other injuries;
  • Excessive, unexplained weight loss;
  • Dehydration;
  • Unclean conditions.

Are Elder Abuse and Elder Neglect the Same Crime in Georgia?

Although the crime of elder abuse may include elder neglect, it is not exactly the same as elder neglect in Georgia. Elder abuse is the mental, emotional, or physical abuse of an older individual.

Elder abuse may range from physically beating the elderly individual to regularly screaming at them. In addition, elder abuse may occur because of the caregiver’s intentional failure to provide the care that the elderly individual needs to live a full life, which may also constitute elder neglect.

Elder abuse and neglect may also occur in a passive way. For example, a caregiver could fail to provide the elderly individual with adequate care because of their own:

  • Illness;
  • Negligence;
  • Stress;
  • Immaturity;
  • Financial troubles.

Is Elder Abuse a Felony in Georgia?

Yes, in the State of Georgia, elder neglect is classified as a felony.

What Is the Penalty for Elder Neglect in Georgia?

Because elder neglect is classified as a felony, if an individual is convicted, they may face 20 years in prison and a $50,000 criminal fine.

Is It Required to Report Elder Abuse?

The majority of state laws require that an individual who has witnessed elder abuse report the incident to the appropriate agency. Individuals who are required to report abuse include, but may not be limited to:

  • Healthcare professionals;
  • Human services professionals;
  • Law enforcement personnel;
  • Long-term care facility employees.

These individuals are required to make reports when they are presented with claims of elder abuse or elder neglect. There are also other individuals who may be required to report elder abuse, including financial contributors, such as bankers and religious clergy members.

Individuals who are responsible for the care of an elderly individual should make a report if they reasonably believe that the elder has suffered abuse. Most state laws require that if an individual witnesses elder abuse, they have to report it to the appropriate agency.

If an individual fails to report elder abuse or elder neglect, it is considered a misdemeanor crime in most states. If an individual is convicted of this offense, it may result in a short jail sentence, criminal fines, or both.

Additionally, in certain jurisdictions, if an individual has a duty to report elder abuse or neglect and they fail to do so, they can be sued by the elder or their family. The individual may be liable for the victim’s losses and may be required to pay costs, which include hospital bills and attorney’s fees.

Do I Need a Criminal Lawyer?

If you are facing elder abuse or elder neglect charges, it is important to consult with a Georgia criminal lawyer. Your lawyer can represent you in court as well as inform you of any possible defenses you may be able to present in court.

If you are concerned for an elderly loved one, your lawyer can advise you of the laws in Georgia as well as who may be required to report abuse. Your lawyer can also help you file any claims or lawsuits related to the incident.

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