I just read a local news story from Abingdon Virginia where police are investigating the death of an elderly patient of Grace Health Care of Abingdon, a nursing home and long term care facility in Washington County.
Though very little is known at this time about the patient, her death, the possible cause or suspected criminal charges, families often ask our office whether or not criminal charges can be filed in connection with their nursing home abuse or neglect case.
We tell families while they are certainly entitled to notify the local police of any incident, swear out a warrant and try to seek criminal charges, this is not something our office can do for our clients, for many reasons. Nor, is it likely in Virginia that the local prosecutors or Commonwealth Attorneys will file charges against a nursing home employee unless the incident is so egregious and the evidence so clear, the charge would be easy to prosecute. Examples of these cases where charges are filed against health care providers in long term or home health jobs, are abuse with eye witness or forensic evidence, sexual or physical assault, restraint, etc.
While other states take a more aggressive approach to prosecution of those who abuse or neglect elderly patients physically in the scope of their employment, more often the cases prosecuted are against family members found to have financially stolen or physically abused a loved one.
So I ask, why do we hold family members to a higher standard? Should it be ok for a stranger to hit, threaten or harm your loved one on the job? Never.
And so I wish the families all the best of luck in this case and other cases where elderly patients suffer at the hands of nursing home staff.