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FAQ: Elder Abuse and Neglect

What is nursing home abuse?

Nursing home abuse can be any improper care or treatment of a resident of a nursing home or assisted living facility. The abuse may be through physical harm, such as broken bones or bruises, or negligence, such as untreated wounds or unhygienic living conditions. Medical malpractice is a common form of elder abuse that includes lack of proper care, administering of unnecessary sedatives, negligence. Abuse affects victims mentally and can cause changes in personality and demeanor. If a loved one seems withdrawn or depressed, this may be a sign of abuse or neglect.

Is elder abuse common?

Elder abuse is a serious problem that too often goes unreported. Current statistics vary greatly as the number of reported cases seems to be a very small sampling of this increasing form of abuse. The National Elder Abuse Incidence Study showed that more than 500,000 people over the age of 60 were victims of abuse in the United States. Those numbers flex with the rate of America's growing elderly population. To see data/stats on elder abuse in the United States visit the National Center on Elder Abuse.

What are some forms of nursing home abuse?

Nursing home neglect and abuse can occur in a variety of forms, including physical, mental and sexual abuse are the most obvious forms of abuse that involve sexual assaults, physical battery and abuse, and emotional scarring through yelling or tormenting the victim. Neglect is commonly performed by the staff at the nursing home that does not provide adequate care leading to malnourishment and infections from untreated wounds. Medical mistreatment can include the unnecessary use of sedatives or chemical restraints, or lack of treatment for existing medical conditions. Exploitation is also a form of abuse that occurs when a person illegal takes items or money from an elder or conceals funds or assets.

What are signs to look for to indicate neglect or abuse?

Signs of elder neglect and abuse can vary greatly from financial, emotional, to physical. Nursing home staff and convalescent hospitals are often under trained in spotting elder abuse. Typical signs that something is wrong is if your loved one suddenly becomes withdrawn or starts experiencing unexplained bruising or bedsores. The types of injuries in elder abuse are often mental and physical abuse and women seem to be targeted more than men. Sexual abuse is a concern anytime your loved one starts showing signs of severe sadness and withdrawing from reality. Even negligence and neglect can take a serious toll on a senior and often times it can increase their chance of death. Not receiving proper meals and medication is a primary cause of neglect as well as under treating wounds or infections.

How do I choose a safe nursing home for myself or a loved one?

Discuss your options with the patient's primary care physician. The doctor may be able to refer you to home that will meet the needs of the patient. Visit as many nursing homes and assisted living facilities as you can to get an idea of the level of care and comfort the patient can expect. While at the facilities, observe the interaction between staff and the residents. Note the number of visible staff members that are interacting with the residents. Also, ask for a tour of the homes to see the benefits of each facility.

Who is responsible for the abuse?

Elder abuse seems to be most commonly perpetrated by family members of the victims, including spouses and adult children. Inadequate training for the care of the elder family member can cause frustration and anger leading to abuse. Staff members at a nursing home are also among those responsible for the abuse. Research has reported that employees that are overworked, underpaid and inadequately trained become abusers as an outlet of their frustration.

If you suspect that a loved has been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, you should seek the advice of an experienced nursing home neglect lawyer.

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