Hands behind prison bars

Delaware lawmakers are looking at legislation that would hold nursing home board members and facility managers criminally liable for resident abuse. 

The bill delineates abuse into categories of mistreatment and neglect, financial exploitation, and diverting medicine. It also creates penalties ranging from misdemeanors to felonies. The legislative language states that “any who knowingly” engages in abusive behavior or who “fails to promptly take corrective action” against such behavior will be held liable. The punishments include fines that can be more than $1,000 per instance. 

“There should be zero tolerance for abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation in long-term care settings,” LeadingAge NJ and DE President and CEO James W. McCracken said in an email to McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Friday. “Those committing crimes should receive appropriate punishment.”

He added that providers should have policies and procedures in place to protect residents, as well as staff training to identify and report abuse, neglect or exploitation to the appropriate authorities. The association is reviewing the bill, which was introduced on Thursday, and asking for more information from the sponsor, Sen. Spiros Mantzavinos.

As written, the legislation creates different felony levels for medication diversion depending on whether the individual committing the act is a healthcare professional. Also, if the value of the financial exploitation is less than $1,000, the crime would be considered a misdemeanor, a felony if above that amount.

The measure also calls out “high managerial agent[s]” and members of the board of directors for facilities for similar misdemeanors and felonies if they are aware of criminal actions and do not stop them. Such individuals would be charged with a class B felony if “abuse, mistreatment, or neglect results in death.”

Mantzavinos, the co-chair of the Long-Term Care and Memory Care Task Force, placed the focus on institutional caregivers in an article from WBOC.

“When families make a difficult decision about the care of their parents or grandparents, they are placing an immense amount of trust in the caregivers, staff and management at long-term, transitional and other care facilities,” he said.