The very people meant to protect and care for elderly people are often at fault for abusing them. This includes nursing home nurses, staff, employees and other caregivers.
No one knows for sure how many people are affected by elder abuse, but the facts that it is an ongoing occurrence can be worrisome for relatives who have placed loved ones in a facility and later discover that acts of abuse against them have occurred.
What Determines Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse occurs when: someone harms an elderly person or puts him or her at risk of serious harm, whether through an overt act or neglect. Examples of elder abuse include:
physical abuse or threats, neglect or abandonment, emotional abuse inflicted through verbal or nonverbal acts, financial exploitation, and sexual abuse.
While elder abuse may happen to anyone, certain factors can make some seniors more vulnerable to abuse than others. Seniors living in nursing homes may face a higher risk of abuse or neglect if: staff members are not properly screened or receive inadequate training.
The risks are higher for those elderly individuals who are socially isolated or mentally impaired by dementia or mental illness, due in part to the fact they are less able to communicate with their loved ones when something is wrong.
A Crime That Often Goes Undetected
It is important for those close to those family members who may become victims to be familiar with the warning signs of elder abuse. Researchers estimate that only about one in five cases of elder abuse is ever reported, meaning that many seniors are not getting the help they need to prevent and cope with abuse.
To keep elderly friends and loved ones safe from harm, it is important to be aware of the signs that may suggest such activities are taking place. Possible indicators that something may be amiss include:
Physical signs of abuse, such as bruises, burns, abrasions or broken bones
Poor hygiene, bedsores or unattended medical needs
Sudden depression or withdrawal from normal activities
Abrupt changes in financial circumstances
Tension or frequent arguments with a caregiver
There may be no basis for accusations of patient abuse, but if accusations are followed by a lawsuit, or the threat of a lawsuit, is one reason why nursing home facilities should carry malpractice insurance. If the accusations turn out to be true, nursing home malpractice insurance will aid in the defense of the facility, saving owners from large sums of out-of-pocket expenses.
The best way to help prevent abuse of the elderly is to maintain frequent contact with older friends and loved ones, and to be alert to the signs of potential abuse. Those working at the facility should also be aware of any signs that such incidence are occurring and report them to a supervisor immediately.
Anyone having knowledge of someone having experienced nursing home abuse or neglect should contact a lawyer with a background in nursing home abuse cases to discuss the possibility of seeking financial compensation.