Some states legally require anyone who suspects abuse to report the authorities. After the abuse is reported the senior citizen may be moved to a new facility. There is also the possibility that the current facility will take steps to remedy the problem. These changes can be difficult for a senior to endure, and ultimately the next step should be whatever is to their benefit.
Elder abuse is the intentional abuse of a person over the age of 60. Most abusers are known to the senior as a friend, family member, or caregiver. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that one in ten seniors will suffer some sort of abuse.
A recent study estimated more than 24 percent of nursing home residents suffered at least one incidence of physical abuse. Reporting abuse can be a frightening prospect due to the fear of retaliation. However, it is important to understand the forms of abuse and to file a report if you see any of the telltale signs.
The Forms of Abuse
Elder abuse can take many forms. While physical abuse may be the most evident, other forms are harder to suspect. These include:
Elder neglect is the failure of a caregiver to meet the basic needs of the seniors in their care. Basic needs include food, water, shelter, adequate medical care, personal hygiene, and general cleanliness. An example of this type of abuse is a caregiver who fails to feed a dependent senior on a regular basis.
Emotional and psychological abuse includes humiliation, threats, inflicting fear, or deliberate isolation. An example of this type of abuse includes ridiculing an elderly person because they are bladder and bowel incontinent.
Slapping, kicking, hitting, punching, or other actions against a senior citizen are all forms of physical abuse. Unnecessary roughness while caring for an elderly person is also physical abuse. An example of this kind of abuse is a caretaker who slaps an elderly person because they are frustrated over dealing with their dementia.
Sexual abuse is another unfortunate form of elder abuse and includes unwelcome touching, forced sexual contact, or sexual harassment. An example of this kind of abuse is a senior who is sexually assaulted by a worker at a long-term care facility because they know the elderly person has Alzheimer’s disease and can’t report them.
Financial abuse occurs when a caregiver, family member, or another acquaintance misuses a senior’s money, benefits, or other assets. Elders with cognitive issues are especially vulnerable. An example of this kind of abuse is a family member caregiver who forges a dependent senior’s checks and steals the money.
The Signs of Abuse
The signs of abuse can be difficult to spot in long term care facility residents. In seniors with cognitive decline, those signs might be harder to detect. The following are signs to watch out for:
- Unexplained scratches, bruises, scrapes, welts, and cuts
- Injuries that require hospitalization such as broken bones, head trauma, or severe wounds
- Pressure ulcers
- New physical pain, soreness, limping or other discomforts
- New or untreated infections or infected wounds
Less common signs may point to other, less noticeable forms of abuse. These signs include:
- New or unusual wariness around family members or caregivers
- Changes in behavior or mood
- Uncharacteristic agitation, anger, or frustration
Finally, the following are signs the senior may be the victim of financial abuse:
- Unpaid bills
- New changes to the senior’s will or power of attorney status
- Missing valuables or other items
The Process of Reporting Elder Abuse
Contact the adult protective services agency in your area to report suspected nursing home abuse. You can call Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116. You can also follow this link to find out more about the options that are available to you.
If elder abuse is suspected, do not hesitate to call 911. The most important step is to prevent further harm to the senior citizen. Nursing home investigations take time to complete. If your loved one is in harm’s way, contact the emergency authorities immediately.
What Happens Next
Once abuse is suspected, family members are often left with many questions. Nursing home abuse can be difficult to prove, especially in circumstances where the patient suffers from cognitive or communication impairment.
Family members may find help by contacting a nursing home abuse lawyer. An attorney can help take legal action against caregivers and facilities to see that justice is served.