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Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes
Dealing with Neglect in Nursing Homes

A prevalent form of elder abuse happening in nursing home facilities is neglect.

According to the National Council on Aging, there are 5 million elder abuse victims in America - but not all reside in nursing homes. Yet this is still a silent crisis: for every case that's reported, 24 go unreported. The annual cost of elder financial exploitation's estimated at $2.9 billion and the direct medical costs associated with elder abuse exceed $5 billion. Learn more about Elder Abuse.

It's painful to watch loved ones overlooked and ignored. Neglect leads to a decline in health and eventually ends in death for the elderly individuals who're entrusted to a nursing home's care. If you see neglect happening to your loved one ins a nursing home - don't standby and do nothing. with your elderly loved one,

The problem can occur anywhere and can take different shapes. What makes this more problematic that it's overlooked and continues in silence and it's ignored. Even if a friend or family member visits frequently, one misses the signs and shrugs it off as incidental. It's a deadly disease.

Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes

Elder Abuse
Elder Abuse

All around the world, seniors suffer from abuse: harmed in substantial ways by people who are directly responsible to care for them. A sad dilemma.

As nursing home residents become older and more frail, they lack the strength and willingness to stand up to bullying and fight back when slapped. An elderly person loses eyesight and hearing, or they cannot think as clearly as they could when younger. These loses leaves them vulnerable to attack from angry, unscrupulous individuals who take advantage of them.

An Elderly Friend or Neighbor

She lives next door. She even drops by for coffee occasionally.

You've chatted with her at civic meetings and block parties for years. When you see her coming out of the market, you slow down, greet her, and chat awhile. Frequently, she seems wary, as if she doesn't recognize you, but it's more like a distraction. You ask her about a nasty bruise on her arm. Did she fall? She replies, just a silly accident, she explains. Off she goes with a quick goodbye to return home. You think: something isn't quite right about her. The bruise, her skittish behavior, weigh heavily on you. But you discard the thought, well, she's getting pretty old; maybe her mind is getting fuzzy.

But nagging persists - something isn't right.

Types of Abuse in Nursing Homes

In the U.S. alone, more than half a million reports of elderly abuse reach authorities every year, and millions more go unreported.

Signs of Abuse

  • Bruising or bleeding
  • Loss of hair
  • Persistent infections
  • Burns and abrasions
  • Open wounds, bed sores or cuts
  • Sudden change in weight
  • Poor hygiene, smell of urine or feces
  • Torn, and bloody clothing or bedding
  • Listlessness
  • Unresponsive or distracted
  • Infantile behaviors
  • Physical withdrawal
  • Emotionally withdrawn
  • Disappearance of personal items

***Take note of these signs and if you see any of them, do this:

Notify the facility management.

Ask your loved one about the situation - be aware that even residents who are aware and recognize a problem are usually reluctant to discuss it.

During regular visiting hours, a staff member refuses you entrance or delays the visit, doesn't allow you private time with the resident, your first step is to discuss this with the facility manager or supervisor. If you are not able to see the manager, leave a note and then follow-up with a telephone call as soon as you can.

Stay Calm

Unless you believe the resident is in imminent danger, call 911 immediately, but if it can wait, it's better to confront the nursing home's administration before dialing 911.

It's important to bring it up to the manager or supervisor calmly and professionally. Give ample time and allow this person to offer explanations and offer to investigate.

If you receive an unsatisfactory response from the manager or the resident's condition worsens, contact the appropriate state agency and file a complaint. Call the Adult Protective Services - find information on the National Council on Aging or by calling 1-800-677-1116.

Abuse Concerns

Physical abuse - use of force against an older person that results in physical pain, injury, or impairment: hitting or shoving, inappropriate use of drugs, restraints, or confinement.

Emotional abuse - speak to or treat an older person that cause emotional distress.

Verbal forms of elder abuse:

  • Yelling or threatening
  • Humiliation and ridicule
  • Habitual blaming or scapegoating

Nonverbal forms of elder abuse:

  • Ignoring the person
  • Isolating them from friends or activities
  • Terrorizing the person

Sexual abuse - contact with an older person without consent. Physical sex acts and even showing pornographic material, or forcing one watch sex acts, all constitute sexual abuse.

Neglect by caregivers - failure to fulfill an obligation, constitutes more than half of all reported cases of elder abuse. Either intentionally or not.

Financial exploitation - unauthorized use of one's funds or property, either by a caregiver or an outside scam artist.

  • Misuse an elder's personal checks, credit cards, or accounts
  • Steal cash, income checks, or household goods
  • Forging a signature
  • Engage in identity theft

Typical rackets that target elders include

  • Announcements of a "prize" that the elderly person has won but must pay money to claim
  • Phony charities
  • Investment fraud

Healthcare fraud

Unethical doctors, nurses, hospital personnel, and other professional care providers, examples of healthcare fraud and abuse:

  • Not providing healthcare, but charging for it
  • Overcharging or double-billing for medical care or services
  • Getting kickbacks for referrals to other providers or for prescribing certain drugs
  • Too much medication or not enough medication
  • Recommending fraudulent remedies for illnesses or other medical conditions
  • Medicaid fraud

Get Active in Preventing Elder Abuse and Neglect

You can participate in preventing elder abuse by doing the following things:

  • Listening to seniors and their caregivers
  • Intervening when you suspect elder abuse
  • Educating others about how to recognize and report elder abuse

Common factors that affect elder abuse

  • Substance abuse by the caregiver's which diminishes effective care. Being drug dependent increases the risk of financial abuse.
  • A history of domestic violence or other violence can often be a marker for elder abuse later in life.
Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.