The older population in the United States is growing at a historical rate, due in equal parts to the Baby Boomer generation reaching retirement and the simple fact that the average life expectancy in the U.S. has almost doubled in the last century. Sadly, the dramatic increase in the elderly population has come with a corresponding increase in instances of elder abuse. Although elder abuse frequently occurs in a family setting, nursing home abuse occurs far more frequently than most people realize. The Garden City nursing home lawyers at Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia explain what you should do if you suspect that a loved one is the victim of nursing home abuse.
How Common Is Elder Abuse?
Experts agree that accurate figures relating to the prevalence of elder abuse remain elusive for several reasons. For one thing, state reporting requirements lack a unified system across the nation making the compilation of data difficult. The other obstacle to gathering accurate data is that victims of elder abuse are frequently reluctant to report the abuse because they are ashamed or because they remain dependent on the abuser. Conservative facts and figures relating to elder abuse, however, tell us the following:
- Experts believe more than one in 10 seniors will be the victim of elder abuse
- Each year, there are over 5 million instances of financial exploitation with a senior victim
- For every instance of elder abuse reports, as many as 14 go unreported.
- More than 40% of nursing home residents have reported abuse, and more than 90% report that they or another resident of the facility have been neglected;
- Research from 2010 indicates that up to half of all nursing home attendants have admitted abusing or neglecting elderly patients;
- More than half of all Certified Nursing Assistants (CAN’s) in elder care facilities have admitted verbally abusing, yelling at, and using foul language with elderly residents of care facilities.
- A study of 2,000 nursing facility residents indicated an abuse rate of 44 percent and a neglect rate of 95 percent.
- Complaints of abuse, exploitation or neglect accounted for 7 percent of complaints given to Ombudsmen at long-term care facilities.
If You Suspect Abuse, What Should You Do?
For the adult child, or other loved one, of an elderly nursing home patient it can be heart-wrenching to think about the possibility of abuse; however, ignoring the signs of elder abuse could have serious consequences. Knowing what those signs are is a critical first step. Signs that may indicate nursing home abuse include:
- Bruising on wrists and/or ankles from restraints
- Excessive and/or unexplained injuries
- Loss of appetite
- Personal items missing
- Medication missing or not taken as prescribed
- Deteriorating hygiene habits
If you notice any of these potential signs of nursing home abuse it is imperative that you act on your suspicion immediately. If you are wrong, no harm is done; however, if your loved one is the victim of abuse and you hesitate to act, that will likely cause additional harm.
If your loved one is capable of communicating with you, sit down with him/her and try to discuss your concerns. Explain that nursing home abuse is common and that a victim should not be ashamed or otherwise hesitant to speak out. Confronting the administration with your suspicions may, or may not, be helpful. In some cases the administration “circles the wagon” because they are more worried about being held legally liable for the abuse than they are about stopping the abuse. At some facilities, however, a conversation with management can be extremely productive. If you believe the abuse constitutes a criminal offense, which is frequently the case, you may wish to contact the appropriate law enforcement agency to file a complaint and push for an investigation. If all of this sounds confusing and a bit intimidating, keep in mind that the most important step you can take if you suspect nursing home abuse is to consult with a nursing home lawyer. Along with the previously mentioned avenues available, you may also have the basis for a civil lawsuit for abuse and neglect.