Nursing Home Elder Abuse
Elder mistreatment, including abuse and neglect, is any intentional act that causes harm or risk of harm to a vulnerable elder by a caregiver or any person entrusted with ensuring the well-being of the elder. The intentional harmful action includes failure for a caregiver to satisfy an elder’s needs, whether or not the act was intended to be harmful.
A study prepared by the staff of the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee in 2014 finds that reports of serious, physical, sexual and verbal abuse are numerous among nursing homes across the nation. Thirty percent of the over 5,000 nursing homes in the United States were cited for nearly 9,000 instances of abuse over a recent two-year period from 1999 to 2001. Problems included negligence and inadequate medical care resulting in untreated bedsores, malnutrition, and dehydration. Facilities were found to have poor sanitation and hygiene practices and many problems included preventable accidents, some serious enough to cause harm to the residents and put them in immediate jeopardy of death or serious injury.
Infliction of elder abuse is not limited to caregivers in assisted living facilities. It can include persons as close to the victim as their children or extended family members or their fellow nursing home residents. Some signs of abuse may include depression, confusion, unexplained weight loss, agitation, violence, lack of interest in activities, unexplained bruises, burns, or scars, messy, unkempt appearance, bedsores, or other preventable conditions.
If signs of abuse are observed, talk to the affected person to find out what is going on. Often times, if they are unable or unwilling to explain, it may be because they are traumatized, embarrassed, or simply unable to recall or verbalize what happened to them. Report your observations and findings to someone in charge of the facility or to other members of the family who can help out as soon as possible. Abuse or neglect can have a lasting or permanent effect on a person’s physical and mental health so it is best to remedy the situation as soon as it is discovered.