What is Considered Elder Abuse in North Carolina?
If the caretaker, orderly, or administrative staff mistreats an older adult under their care, they could be charged with elder abuse or elder neglect. Depending on the severity of the charges, guilty parties may be charged with different classes of felonies.
Under North Carolina law, elder abuse is the intentional infliction of physical pain, mental anguish, and ‘unreasonable’ confinement. Elder abuse can also include willfully depriving a senior under their care of the necessary services for maintaining the elder’s physical and mental well-being. Additionally, elder abuse can consist of financial exploitation, wherein a caretaker intentionally misuses the elder’s finances for personal gain.
Examples of elder abuse include the following:
- Assault, including punching, kicking, or striking a senior citizen.
- Financial abuse and exploitation. These acts include theft, fraud, and illegal alterations to an elder’s estate plan.
- Physical abuse, including pushing an older person around or intentionally strapping them in too tight.
- Psychological abuse, including tormenting the elderly person’s mental well-being.
- Purposeful abandonment (which could be seen as a severe type of elder neglect).
- Sexual abuse, including molestation and other inappropriate sexual acts.
- The abuse of protected rights.
- The denial of medicines and services that would save an elder from suffering.
- Threats of violence.
- Verbal abuse, including constant name-calling or the use of offensive slurs.
What is Elder Neglect?
Nursing home facility caretakers are entrusted with the health and well-being of those under their care. Failure to meet the standards of care can be considered elder neglect in some cases. In fact, elder neglect makes up for more than 50% of all elder abuse cases.
Unlike elder abuse, which is typically seen as a willful act, elder neglect can be intentional or unintentional. Regardless of intent, the impact is very often felt much the same, with geriatric nursing home residents feeling the pain and suffering of being neglected.
Examples of elder neglect include the failure to adequately provide:
- Access to social activities.
- Ensuring that the resident does not suffer from self-neglect.
- Mental health care.
- Necessary health care.
- Proper hygiene assistance.
- Shelter from the weather.
When is Elder Abuse and Neglect Considered a Felony?
If the elderly person suffers serious injuries as a direct result of the abuse, the at-fault party could be guilty of a Class F felony. If the injuries are less severe but nonetheless arose from the caretaker’s abuse, then the caretaker could be charged with a Class H felony.
If a senior suffers serious injuries as a result of elder neglect, the caretaker or other nursing home staff could be guilty of a Class G felony. If the injuries from elder neglect are slightly less severe, it is possible that the nursing home caretakers could be guilty of a Class I felony instead.
Elder financial exploitation can also be charged as a felony, depending on the crime and potentially what was stolen or misused. If the funds or assets that were misappropriated had a value of at least $100,000, the offense could be considered a Class F felony. If the funds or assets stolen or misused by a caretaker are valued between $20,000 and $100,000, then that would potentially be a Class G felony. If the value of assets stolen was less than $20,000, then the crime may be a Class H felony.
What Are the Penalties for Elder Abuse and Neglect Felonies?
In North Carolina, each felony offense has a broad range of possible punishments.
A Class F felony for serious injuries caused by elder abuse can result in a prison sentence somewhere between ten and 41 months. A Class H felony for elder abuse can result in four to 25 months in prison. A Class G felony for elder neglect that results in serious harm may come with a penalty of eight to 31 months in prison. A Class I felony for elder neglect may come with a punishment of three months to a year in prison.
In addition to jail time, the court may order that certain fines be paid to the victim or their families. The amount is up to the judge overseeing the case.
Prior convictions may worsen these punishments.
What Can You Do if You Believe Your Elderly Loved One Is Being Abused or Neglected?
If you believe your loved one has been the victim of abuse or neglect, the first thing you should attempt to do is get them to safety. Then, you can report your concerns to the Department of Social Services (DSS) local to the senior’s residence. DSS will then report cases of abuse to the local prosecutor’s office.
At any stage of the case of abuse and neglect, you should seek the legal services of lawyers with experience handling elder abuse matters. To speak with a member of our legal team about your elder abuse case, please contact our law office to schedule your free case review.
Contact Our Law Firm to Schedule Your Free Consultation
Elder abuse and neglect are unthinkable offenses, yet they are also more common than we would like to imagine. If you have seen warning signs of elder neglect or abuse, you need to swiftly take action. Contact our law firm to get in touch with elder abuse attorneys who’ve seen cases like yours before and have the proper experience for bringing such a case to a satisfactory conclusion.
To speak with our nursing home injury lawyers, please call our Raleigh-based law offices to schedule your free case evaluation. (919) 277-0150.