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Phoenix Group Home Abuse Lawyer

Deciding to place a developmentally disabled adult in a group home can be emotionally wrenching for a family that is trying to balance the needs of the disabled family member with the abilities of the rest of the family to provide the required care while still having some life of their own. The last thing the family expects is that their disabled relative will end up drowned in a bathtub or repeatedly raped by a member of the group home staff. But instances of abuse and neglect do occur far too often, to the obvious detriment of the disabled resident as well as to the family.

In circumstances as emotionally trying as this, the family faces the added burden of deciding how to hold the people who caused the injuries or death accountable for their actions. A Phoenix group home abuse lawyer experienced with the problems of protecting vulnerable populations, and the nuances of Arizona law, can take at least a portion of the burden off the family’s shoulders.

Signs of Elderly Group Home Abuse

Every individual processes trauma and abuse in a personal way, and the effects of any kind of abuse are unpredictable when the victim is an elderly individual with medical issues or an adult with developmental delays. The friends and loved ones of group home residents must stay vigilant for signs of abuse; some victims may not have the capability of understanding what has happened to them, and it is up to their loved ones to identify and stop ongoing abuse.

  • If you have an elderly loved one in a group home or regularly visit an adult with developmental delays in a group home, stay vigilant for any signs of physical abuse such as unexplained bruises, cuts, or other injuries. If he or she has sustained any such injuries, ask for an incident report if your loved one cannot convey how an injury occurred. It is also wise to regularly check your loved one’s medical status; his or her caregivers should maintain a consistent log of all medical events, so stay alert for any repeat injuries or frequent injuries in general for vaguely recorded reasons.
  • Watch for changes in your loved one’s behavior. If he or she suffers from any cognitive, developmental, or dementia-related medical issues it can be difficult to differentiate natural changes in their conditions and signs of suffering abuse. Noticeable changes in mood or the appearance of depression-like symptoms when your loved one is usually happy and outgoing could be a sign of abuse. If your loved one cannot explain the changes in his or her demeanor or becomes distressed or fearful when you ask about why he or she feels this way, your loved one may not be able to articulate what has happened.
  • Gauge the demeanor of other group home members, bearing in mind that many likely suffer from medical, psychological, and/or developmental complications. If it seems like staff are attentive and busy keeping the facility clean and functional, this is a good sign the facility has residents’ best interests at heart. Cluttered walking paths, damaged lighting, leaks, structural damage, or poor security could indicate the group home is failing to provide adequate quarters and care for their residents.

Your loved one should have clean clothes and bedding every time you visit, and the room should be free from dirt, clutter, and debris. Ask to see the cleaning schedule if you want to be sure about the cleanliness of your loved one’s living space. You can also request to see your loved one’s medication log to ensure the facility has adhered to his or her medication schedule. Ultimately, a group home may appear comfortable and inviting, but your loved one may have suffered abuse in other, less obvious ways. Changes in behavior are usually the strongest indication of abuse, so pay close attention for these and investigate any suspicions thoroughly.

Residents Are Especially Vulnerable

Both in group homes and society in general, the developmentally disabled are vulnerable to intentional abuse. Research has reported that as many as 83% of adult females and 32% of adult males who are developmentally disabled are sexually assaulted at some time in their lives.

In the group home environment, several factors make residents susceptible to abuse and neglect, primarily the fact that they are so dependent on staff and, especially in smaller group homes, few other people are around to see the mistreatment. Residents are also reluctant to speaking out when it comes to mistreatment, having been taught from a very young age to obey the people in charge, even if what they are asked to do makes no sense to them.

All of this puts a premium on:

  • The group home being staffed by reliable, competent, and even-tempered people
  • Appropriate placement of residents, to avoid exposing them to other residents with dangerous tendencies.

Arizona Group Home Abuse Law

In Arizona, group homes for the developmentally disabled are licensed by the state Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD), but are owned and operated by private companies. The developmentally disabled are ensured specific rights under the law that established the DDD. In addition, many adult developmentally disabled people are entitled to the protection of Arizona’s Adult Protective Service Act, which has very specific provisions protecting “vulnerable adults” against neglect and abuse.

How to Report Elderly Group Home Abuse

It is possible the group home is unaware your loved one has suffered abuse, or perhaps the home administration somehow enabled or attempted to conceal the abuse. In the event you have strong evidence or reason to believe a specific individual has abused your loved one at a group home, speak with the manager or owner of the home and report the issue to the police. You should also investigate whether the group home responds to any specific oversight body, parent company, or other organization and file a report there as well.

Arizona also upholds mandatory reporting laws for certain professionals and other individuals who encounter elderly group home abuse or other forms of elder abuse. Doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and anyone else responsible for the care of an individual is a mandatory reporter under Arizona law and must contact the authorities as soon as they identify any kind of elder abuse.

Help for Disabled Elders in Phoenix

When the staff that has been employed to protect the disabled residents of group homes abrogate their obligations and injure the residents, rather than protecting them, the residents have only relatives and friends to speak up for them. Holding someone responsible for injuring a member of your family who was placed in their care for protection is a serious responsibility. The Phoenix personal injury lawyers at Knapp & Roberts understands the emotional nature of the effort. We offer the integrity and compassion you want during such an anxious time. We also provide years of experience with the nuances of Arizona law to maximize the chances of success in handling neglect and abuse cases involving care facilities.

The cases tend to be very dependent on what you can prove. If you even suspect improper care at a group home, you should arrange for a transfer to another home and, at the same time, document as much as you can about the treatment and conditions at the current group home. Take pictures of anything that can be photographed, and take notes that document times, dates, and the names of people involved. All of it may be useful in establishing that the wrongful actions occurred, that they were foreseeable, and that there was evidence of the mistreatment, which was ignored, allowing it to continue.

Common Types of Elderly Group Home Abuse

Elderly individuals who suffer from disabilities are some of the most vulnerable people in society, especially when they enter group homes for everyday care and medical treatment. Group homes must properly vet and train all employees to ensure they do not pose a threat to residents. Elder abuse in group homes can take many forms, all of them serious.

  • Physical abuse, which includes any type of physical violence such as slapping, hitting, intentionally dropping, pushing, or any other type of physical strike. Physical abuse can easily lead to severe injuries and emotional trauma.
  • Sexual abuse, including any kind of unwelcome or unwanted sexual content, sexually aggressive words and actions, or forcing a resident to view pornographic material against his or her will. Sexual abuse can also apply to taking nude photos of a resident or forcing residents to engage in unwanted sexual activity for the amusement of the abuser.
  • Emotional abuse is some of the most common elder abuse, but it is also the most difficult to prove and can take many forms. Ridicule, intentionally toying with a resident’s intellectual disability or cognitive impairment, or verbal abuse can all count as emotional abuse. Tormenting a resident by confusing him or her, moving possessions to irritate the resident, or otherwise intimidating the resident with verbal assaults constitute emotional abuse.
  • Financial abuse occurs when a group home employee, other resident, or even a family member steals cash and/or valuables from an elderly person. Financial abuse also includes stealing an elderly individual’s personal information or identity to commit financial fraud for personal gain.
  • Isolation causes severe mental and emotional trauma and may even exacerbate the symptoms of physical illnesses and other medical conditions. A group home employee commits abuse when he or she keeps a resident isolated from peers or prevents him or her from receiving visitors.
  • Neglect can easily cause severe illnesses and dramatically impact quality of life. A group home that fails to regularly help bathe residents, change soiled linens, and ensure clean clothes on residents can bear liability for the resulting illnesses and/or injuries.

Nursing homes, group homes, and assisted living facilities for adults with developmental disabilities have a duty of care to ensure a safe, nurturing environment for those in their care.

Group home abuse can have devastating effects on people with disabilities and the elderly, and any time a group home employee abuses a resident intentionally or through negligence the victims should have some idea of what to do for recovery. First, it is essential to know how to identify all types of elderly group home abuse.

Group Home Abuse Statistics

Unfortunately, group home abuse is very common, especially for the elderly and adult residents who suffer from developmental delays and/or cognitive impairments.

  • Different studies conducted to determine rates of elder abuse have reported anywhere from 2% to 10% of people over 65 suffering some form of abuse.
  • Only about one of every 25 financial abuse cases receive any attention from authorities or investigators. Pay close attention to your loved one’s financial transactions, if possible.
  • About 7% to 10% of all elderly individuals over the age of 65 experience some form of abuse each year.
  • As much as 47% of elderly people with dementia suffer abuse from their caregivers.
  • Adults with developmental disabilities are four to ten times more likely to suffer abuse from caregivers than other adults who do not have disabilities.

Friends and loved one of adults with developmental disabilities and elderly individuals in assisted living facilities and group homes must stay alert for any signs of abuse. Only a fraction of abuse incidents lead to reports, and these incidents can be severely damaging to victims and their families. An attorney can help the victims of group home abuse determine their best options for legal recourse and recovery.

At Knapp & Roberts, there is no cost involved in letting a Phoenix elder abuse lawyer know what you think has been going on. In fact, there’s no charge at all, unless we succeed in obtaining a settlement or a verdict in your favor. Call us today to arrange to tell us your story.

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The personal injury attorneys in Phoenix, Arizona, at Knapp & Roberts have the compassion and trial lawyer skills to tell your story to a jury. We will get to know you and your family so that we can help the jury understand what has happened to you and your family and how it has changed your lives. Obtain the compensation necessary for the injuries and losses you have suffered.