When our parents or other loved once reach their senior years, it eventually becomes time to think about their care. Whether through physical disability or a declining mental condition, they may need to relocate into an assisted living situation. This is why our society has created nursing homes, but what happens when the facility isn’t living up to their responsibilities? Either through active abuse or neglect, some elders face a deteriorating living condition that must not be tolerated.

Nursing Homes and Elder Abuse
Currently, there are more than 3.2 million people living in nursing homes and similar assisted care facilities throughout the United States. That number is expected to grow with each passing year, as our population continues to grow as well. Studies have indicated that nearly 40% of all people will need to relocate into an assisted care facility within their lifetimes. This represents a significant portion of the population and those people will all depend on the quality care provided by professionals.

While the majority of facilities take patient/resident care seriously, there are still many cases of abuse and neglect. In those cases, both abuse and neglect can be extremely difficult to identify and are usually even harder to prove. For that reason, as many as one in five cases of abuse go unreported. The problem needs urgent attention, because studies have found that abused elders have a 300% higher risk of dying within three years than those who haven’t suffered abuse.

Additionally, research has found that 1 in 6 elder nursing home residents may be victimized each year. Of those victims, three-quarters of them are victimized by caregivers and facility staff. This indicates that abuse occurs far more frequently than most people believe.

Identifying the Types of Elder Abuse
While most people assume abuse refers to physical abuse, that’s just one type of misconduct perpetrated against elder facility residents. Here is a brief overview of the types of abuse committed against elder nursing home residents.

Physical Abuse – This involves committing acts of physical violence against the elder. Physical abuse also overlaps with the topic of neglect, when the neglect involves leaving the elder in restraints for an extended length of time.

Sexual Abuse – This is also common among abused nursing home residents and involves everything from sexual harassment to assaults that may include rape or sexual exploitation. Sexual abuse is often committed against elders who are unable to express their consent, or those mentally compromised by dementia and other mental illnesses.

Psychological Abuse – This involves intimidation tactics, threats of violence, yelling, humiliation, and similar acts of shaming. This is one of the most difficult forms of abuse to identify, though it often results in the elder exhibiting changes in behavior. He or she may seem fearful or withdrawn, when the abuser is nearby.

Financial Exploitation – This is also considered abuse and is common in cases where the nursing home facility or another caregiver is in charge of the elder’s finances. The caregiver may steal from the elder’s accounts or apply for credit in the elder’s name.
Neglect – This may be even more common than direct abuse, though neglect isn’t intentional in most cases. It’s often the result of poor staffing in the facility, forcing existing employees to try to care for a larger number of residents.

This may mean care is compromised to the point that some elders may not have their daily needs met, such as help with maintaining good hygiene. They may also not have adequate access to drinking water and may not receive all of their meals. As a consequence, neglected elders may exhibit bed sores, skin conditions, malnutrition, and dehydration.

Signs of Abuse and Neglect
As previously mentioned, it can be difficult to identify a case of abuse. Neglect can be even more challenging to identify. This is partly because the elder will try to hide the wrongdoing out of a fear of retaliation. Even so, some signs to watch for may include the following:

  • Broken bones, or fractures
  • Bruises, including welts and cuts
  • Bed sores
  • Recurring infections
  • Dehydration
  • Sudden mood changes, which may be marked by emotional outbursts
  • Reluctance to communicate
  • Reclusive behavior or an unwillingness to socialize with other residents
  • Refusing to take medications
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained loss of body weight
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Behavioral changes
  • Caregivers refusing to let the elder spend time alone with visitors

If you suspect your elder loved one has been victimized or neglected by their caregivers, it’s important to take action immediately. An attorney experienced in elder law can help you identify evidence of abuse and neglect and guide you in seeking relief for your elder loved one. If the situation remains unchanged or the facility’s staff seems uncooperative, your elder law attorney can help you seek damages through the courts. This can help you resolve the situation for your elder loved one and provide them with a better quality of care.