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Elder Abuse: Violating the Trust

elderly abuse

When you need some sort of assisted care for your elderly parent, grandparent, or other adult, you want the best care possible. You trust that facilities such as nursing homes know how to handle health and hygiene issues and can empathize with loneliness and forgetfulness. It is unthinkable that these facilities may be breeding grounds for elder abuse.

However, elder abuse is a serious issue.

What exactly is elder abuse?

When caregivers or employees in nursing homes or other assisted care facilities knowingly, intentionally, or negligently act in a way that causes harm to adults who are weak and vulnerable, this constitutes abuse.

This abuse can take many forms.

Physical involves the infliction of pain or injury, such as pushing, slapping, or hitting. Typically, this results in bruises, lacerations, and broken bones.

Emotional abuse involves causing distress, mental pain, or anguish by yelling, threatening, name-calling, or simply by ignoring the person or isolating him or her. Signs to look for include withdrawal, fear, anger, and emotional outbursts.

Sexual abuse involves any form of sexual harassment or any sexual act that is non-consensual. Look for things such as bruising in the genital area and torn or bloody clothing.

Basic neglect involves the refusal or failure to provide adequate necessities such as food, water, and shelter. This can result in health issues including ulcers, malnutrition, bedsores, and untreated infections.

Other forms of abuse include financial exploitation, theft and identify theft.


Why Does Elder Abuse Happen in Nursing Homes?

The nursing home industry has had to expand rapidly to accommodate the growing number of elderly adults.

This rapid expansion has led to facilities hiring workers that lack experience and training. Unfortunately, this growth has also led to an escalation in elder abuse in care facilities, such as nursing homes.

Not all cases of nursing home abuse are intentional; however, no matter how the abuse occurs, it is still unacceptable treatment for our elderly.

Examples include:

  • When training does not teach staff members how to handle health conditions of the elderly, such as dementia, they might become frustrated and lash out either physically or verbally.
  • Inexperience is another issue. Because of this staff may not recognize the signs of serious issues such as malnutrition or dehydration or know what causes bedsores.
  • The health care industry is constantly changing in the best methods to handle serious health issues such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. By not staying current, staff members may inadvertently hurt an elder adult.
  • Lack of appropriate training can lead to physical injuries and neglect. For instance, staff members may not know how to properly assist an individual out of bed or how to change sheets of an infirm individual.

It is important to note that abusers also can be much closer to home – spouses, children, caregivers, and others in contact with the individual.


When Should You Take Action?

Elder abuse is devastating – on the individual as well as the family. Educate yourself on the signs of elder abuse, research the facility your loved one is in or may be moved to, talk to staff members and ask questions about their education and experience, and most of all be observant of your loved one and other residents of the facility.

If you believe abuse is happening, put a stop to it immediately but document any and all instances of what happened. Talking with a lawyer can help you assess the need for a formal investigation or other legal action.


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