Entrusting yourself or your loved one to the care of a nursing home facility should not come with the fear of mistreatment or assault, but studies have shown that approximately one in 10 older adults living in a community environment is a victim of abuse. Elder abuse is a serious and harmful threat to individuals who reside in nursing homes, affecting both the residents themselves and their network of friends and family.
The research and study of nursing home abuse is regretfully limited, and the prevalence of unreported incidents only serves to complicate and obscure the severity of the issue. The current situation makes it all the more critical to be aware of types of abuse and the factors that can increase possibility of occurrence. Educating yourself on available and emerging data will help you take an informed approach to prevention.
Abuse can come in many forms. Below is a list of types of abuse and warning signs that may accompany their incidence.
- Physical Abuse. Any evidence of bodily harm on a nursing home resident should be thoroughly investigated. Seek outside help immediately if a caregiver refuses to allow a potential victim to be examined. Victims may become quiet and withdrawn, particularly when the abuse is sexual in nature.
- Emotional or Psychological Abuse. This may include yelling or threats, attempts to humiliate, or curses directed at the victim. People who are experiencing this type of abuse may show signs of depression, fear, or personality or behavioral changes.
- Neglect. Negligence is also a form of abuse. Victims of negligence may exhibit symptoms including dehydration, malnourishment, lack of dental care, poor hygiene, unexplained limited mobility, infected wounds, or bedsores.
- Financial Abuse. If a victim is being exploited for financial gain, there may be signs such as sudden changes in finances or bank accounts, the addition of names to bank or credit cards, unauthorized account activity, forged signatures, or the disappearance of valuable property.
Institutional, Environmental, and Lifestyle Factors
By paying attention to environmental and lifestyle factors, you can help to avoid some patterns and situations that may make one more vulnerable to abuse.
- Isolation. An individual who does not stay actively engaged in a community is more likely to experience abuse. Encourage your loved one to stay active, and take up these habits yourself. Taking part in activities, making friends, and joining clubs or social groups is beneficial to overall health and happiness, but it can also help keep vulnerable adults safe from potentially dangerous situations.
- Poor Hiring Practices. Nursing homes and other caregiving institutions that lack robust safety precautions in their hiring practices have a substantially higher risk of abuse among residents. Make sure you and your loved one choose a home that conducts extensive background checks on its employees and demonstrates an obvious sense of care for both residents and employees. Be suspicious of an institution with high turnover rates and unfriendly employees.
- Ignorance of One’s Own Care. Keeping an elderly person informed of their own care is a simple yet vital step in maintaining safety. An individual is more likely to recognize when something is wrong if they are familiar with their own medications, diet, procedures, schedule, and planned activities.
- Lack of Visitors. A healthy nursing home should encourage and foster a schedule of visiting from not only the friends and family members of residents, but also from volunteers, social workers, and other members of the outside community who can provide benefit to residents, such as musicians, art therapists, or support animals. If the institution appears to be doing anything to prevent or discourage visitors, there is cause for alarm.
In understanding how to best safeguard your loved one from a situation of potential abuse, it is important to also be knowledgeable about factors that may contribute to an individual’s likelihood of perpetrating abuse. The CDC provides a list of potential risk factors. A person may be more likely to abuse an elderly person if:
- They have experienced mental illness, addiction, or substance abuse (past or present)
- They are currently experiencing physical health difficulty
- They work under stressful or understaffed conditions
- They have experienced personal trauma
- They are ill-equipped or undertrained to provide adequate care
- They were exposed to abuse as a child
- They live in social isolation or lack outside social support
- They have a difficult family or relational history with the elder
- They depend financially or emotionally on the elder
Prince Law Firm Can Help
Whether your loved one is under the care of family, friends, or professional caregivers, you can best stand against abuse by taking an active approach to involvement, communicating frequently with caregivers, exercising vigilance and attention to detail, and looking for and reporting warning signs. You can protect your loved one by enlisting the help of experienced advocates who have the legal expertise to both hold wrongful institutions accountable and prevent future cases of abuse.
Prince Law Firm understands the deeply personal and emotional nature of elder abuse cases, and we take a supportive and individualized approach in providing legal guidance. Contact us today to let us help you fight for justice on behalf of your loved one.