jail cell
Neville Bilimoria headshot
Neville Bilimoria

A recent case in California is a reminder that any long-term care facility administrator suspecting abuse or “any type of criminal activity” should call the police immediately, regardless of the state in which the facility is located, attorney Neville M. Bilimoria told the McKnight’s Business Daily.

Administrators are responsible for protecting the health, safety and welfare of residents, he said. Bilimoria has 25 years of experience representing nursing homes and assisted living communities. 

The former executive director of a Camarillo, CA, assisted living facility recently learned the consequences of not notifying the authorities of suspected criminal conduct, according to the Ventura County district attorney’s office.

Lisa Cohen, who was the executive director of the now-closed Royal Gardens, pleaded guilty this month to failing to report elder abuse even though her position made her a mandatory reporter. She was sentenced to 120 days in jail and 12 months of probation, the DA’s office said.

Royal Oaks employee Joel Gonzales allegedly raped a 90-year-old resident living with dementia and allegely attempted to rape another 82-year-old resident, according to the DA’s office. “Cohen was aware of these alleged crimes near the time they occurred and failed to report Gonzales’s actions to law enforcement,” a news release from the DA’s office stated.

A mandated reporter, the DA’s office said, is any person who has assumed care or custody of an elder or dependent adult, regardless of whether they receive compensation.

Operators know to report abuse or neglect by a staff member, such as failure to change adult briefs, allowing a pressure sore to fester, in accordance with state regulations and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services certification rules, for facilities to which CMS rules apply, Bilimoria noted.

“When the abuse also has an element of criminal conduct, what we tell our facilities is, ‘Call the police,’ ” said Billmoria, a partner in the Health Law Practice Group in the Chicago office of Duane Morris and member of the firm’s Post-Acute Care and Senior Services Subgroup.

“If you’re the administrator of a building and you catch wind of something like this — that someone may have been raped or any other type of criminal conduct that might be occuring in your building, call the police,” the attorney said. “You have to protect the health, safety and welfare of the residents.”

Not only is it the right thing to do, he added, but calling the police also protects the facility from liability.