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Patient Abuse, Neglect and Financial Exploitation Are Crimes in Ohio

Q: I have good reason to believe my mother has been neglected by staff at the nursing home where she lives. Is there a law against this?
A: Yes. In Ohio, it is a crime for anyone who owns, operates, administers, is employed by, or is an agent of a care facility (such as a nursing home, group home, residential care facility, assisted living facility, adult care facility or hospital long-term care unit) to abuse or neglect a resident of that facility.
 
Q: What constitutes abuse according to Ohio law?
A: According to Ohio law, “abuse” includes “knowingly causing physical harm or recklessly causing serious physical harm” to a person through physical contact or the inappropriate use of physical or chemical restraint, medication or isolation. Care facility staff is not allowed to use restraint, medication or isolation to punish a patient or for staff convenience. Staff also cannot use restraint, medication or isolation in excess, as a substitute for treatment, or in ways that hinder rehabilitation or treatment.
 
Q: How does Ohio law define neglect?
A: Ohio law defines “neglect” as recklessly failing to provide a person with the treatment, care, goods or services necessary to maintain health or safety, resulting in serious physical harm to the patient.
 
Q: My mother was recently missing some cash and gift cards, and I suspect a staff member of the theft. What does Ohio law say about the financial exploitation of patients?
A: The Ohio Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigates crimes against care facility residents. The Ohio General Assembly authorized the Attorney General to create and oversee the Ohio Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in 1978. The unit is made up of more than 60 special agents, analysts and attorneys, and Ohio law gives this unit original criminal jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute crimes against care facility residents statewide. When elderly or disabled adults are victimized, Ohio law allows for stiffer penalties for offenses such as theft, unauthorized use of property, misuse of credit cards and forgery. 
 
Q: What can I do to make sure my mother isn’t neglected, abused or financially exploited while she’s in the nursing home?
A: Educate yourself about how to recognize and report abuse, neglect and exploitation. Listen to your mother and her caregivers and intervene if you suspect that something is wrong. If you have direct knowledge that your mother is being abused, neglected or exploited, you can contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 614/466-0722 or 800-282-0515, or send a fax to 614-644-9973, or visit www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/ReportPatientAbuse.
 
Q: What does the Ohio Attorney General’s Office do about these problems?
A: The Ohio Attorney General’s Office helps to protect patients from abuse, neglect and exploitation through the Office’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, which investigates allegations of patient abuse and neglect, and, in cooperation with local county prosecutors, prosecutes those responsible.
 
12/31/2012
 
This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and prepared by the Ohio State Bar Association.
Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.

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