Elder abuse is an epidemic in the United States. If you suspect that a senior is at risk from a neglectful or overwhelmed caregiver, you must speak up. Learn about the risk factors for and signs of elder abuse.
Over 3.2 million people reside in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other long-term care facilities in the United States. As many as 40 percent of all adults will enter a nursing home at some point their life. As the U.S. population ages, the number of long-term care residents will expand. Many of these seniors are well-cared for, but countless others are the victims of abuse.
Elder abuse and neglect, especially when it involves a person in a nursing home or assisted living facility, can be difficult to discover. For each reported instance of abuse, at least 5 instances of abuse go unreported.
Nursing home abuse is a major concern. Seniors who have been abused have a 300% higher chance of death in the 3 years following the abuse than those who have not been abused. Approximately 1 in 6 nursing home citizens is the subject of abuse or neglect each year.
Though many nursing home patients receive appropriate care, abuse and neglect continue to be more prevalent than many people think. Over 75% of all instances of elder abuse are carried out by caretakers.
A congressional report examined nursing home documents over a 2-year period. The report showed that nearly 1 in 3 nursing homes were cited for violations that had the potential to cause serious harm to residents. 10% of all nursing homes have been cited for causing actual harm, serious injury, or placed residents at a major risk of a fatality.
A study of nursing home residents showed that 44 % reported that they had actually been abused. Nearly all of those evaluated (95%) had actually seen a resident being abused or neglected.
Research performed by the U.S. General Accountability Office (an agency that works for Congress) exposed that state regulatory authorities often miss out on signs of abuse. The GAO discovered that 70% of state surveys missed out on significant care deficiencies. Another 15% missed evidence of actual harm or immediate jeopardy of harm.
Given these statistics, legislatures in all 50 states have passed anti-elder-abuse regulations. Despite these regulations, elder abuse continues at an alarming pace.
Types of Elder Abuse
Physical abuse is a problem or event that triggers physical injury. Physical abuse might be intentional such as striking or squeezing or it might be due to neglect consisting of overuse of restrictions and absence of physical treatment.
Sexual abuse is undesirable sexual focus or exploitation. This consists of sex-related focus offered to an individual that is unable to express his/her desires or is cognitively endangered such as a person with dementia Alzheimer’s.
Mental and Emotional Abuse
Mental abuse is not easily recognized. In mental or emotional abuse, people speak to or treat elderly persons in ways that cause emotional pain or distress, including:
- Intimidation through yelling or threats
- Humiliation and ridicule
- Habitual blaming or scapegoating
- Ignoring the elderly person
- Isolating an elder from friends or activities
- Terrorizing or menacing the elderly person
Seniors who are experiencing emotional misuse might display behavioral changes.
Financial exploitation occurs when a caretaker takes control of financial affairs and endangers the elderly person’s economic status. This might include direct theft, theft from banking accounts, or making an application for credit in the person’s name.
Neglect is often a result of inadequate staffing. Neglect is a failure to fulfill a caretaking obligation. More than half of all reported cases of elder abuse result from neglect. Negelct can be intentional or unintentional, based on factors such as ignorance or denial that an elderly person needs as much care as he or she does. Neglect happens when an individual’s demands are not dealt with such as individual hygiene treatment or when the patient is not given food, water, or garments. Indifference and disregard can contribute to a variety of medical conditions such as bed sores, skin infections, poor nutrition and dehydration.
Risk Factors for Elder Abuse and Neglect
It’s challenging to care for an elderly person who has numerous medical needs. It’s also difficult to be a senior when age brings with it infirmities and dependency. Both the needs of the caregiver and the needs of the senior can produce circumstances where abuse and neglect are much more likely to take place.
Risk Factors Among Caregivers
Many nonprofessional caretakers– spouses, partners, children, various other loved ones, and also close friends–find caring for a senior to be satisfying. Yet, the obligations as well as demands of caregiving, which increase as the senior’s condition degrades, can likewise be incredibly demanding. The tension and anxiety of elder care can bring about psychological and physical health issues that cause caregivers to burnout. In these circumstances, caregivers are much more susceptible to ignoring and neglecting the needs of those who depend on them.
Caregivers in institutional settings can experience anxiety and stress at levels that result in elder abuse and neglect. Nursing home personnel might be susceptible to elder abuse if they do not have training, have way too many obligations, are psychological unsuited to caregiving, or work under inadequate conditions.
The Elder’s Condition Puts Them At Risk for Neglect and Abuse
Some seniors are much more susceptible to abuse and neglect than their peers. This includes residents who demand more care than their caretakers can provide. Elder abuse is never excusable. However, certain risk factors do place the elder at higher risk for abuse and neglect. These risk factors include:
- The intensity of a senior’s disease, ailments, or mental deterioration
- Seclusion, i.e., the senior and caretaker are alone with each other nearly all the time
- The elder’s own tendency towards verbal or physical aggression
Signs of Elder Abuse
There are numerous signs of elder abuse and neglect. The most common signs of elder abuse and neglect include the following:
- Constant infections
- Inexplicable weight loss
- Bed sores
- Broken bones or fractures
- Cuts, welts, or bruises
- Poor physical appearance or lack of hygiene
- Mood swings and psychological outbursts
- Reclusiveness or refusal to speak
- Refusal to consume or take medicine
- Report of a drug overdose
- Caregivers take steps to prevent the resident from being alone with others
While not all who show these signs have been neglected or abused, these warning signs are red flags that require a thorough and immediate investigation.
Michael A. Hill is an accomplished trial lawyer focusing on representing individuals who have suffered life changing injuries and death in nursing homes, and also from stroke and heart attack in the medical malpractice setting. Michael practices in state and federal courts around the country and has argued cases in front of numerous appellate courts, including the Ohio Supreme Court. Michael has recorded several seven figure verdicts and settlements. Michael is a regular speaker for lawyers concerning litigation and trial practice. Michael is a member of The National Trial Lawyers Top 40 under 40, Top 10 Nursing Homes Lawyers, Top 25 Medical Malpractice Lawyers, Super Lawyers: Rising Star, and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum.
Michael is from Flint, Michigan and received his undergraduate degree from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, where he was introduced to his wife, Hilary. Michael received his law degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Law where he graduated Magna Cum Laude. Michael and Hilary live in Lakewood, Ohio.
Michael is a partner and founder of Eadie Hill Trial Lawyers.