According to The United States Census Bureau, within the next thirty years, the population of sixty-five or older will constitute 20% of total Americans.
Nearly 60 million people will be senior citizens. As the baby boomer generation is aging, many more people will occupy nursing homes. It is very likely that the problem of nursing home abuse and injuries will increase. The ability to recognize and know how to report nursing home abuse or neglect is more important than ever.
What is Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect?
Injuries in a nursing home can happen in many different environments and situations.
Normally, actions that are considered abuse are divided into four different categories.
- Emotional abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Physical abuse
- Financial mismanagement or sabotage
Failure to care and provide for an elder person’s needs is neglect, such as health care, food, clothing, hygiene, and shelter.
How Extensive is the Problem?
The National Center on Elder Abuse conducted a study in 2000 and found that 44% of the residents in nursing homes said they had been mistreated or abused in the last year. In the same time period, 95% of residents surveyed stated they had been neglected or had seen cases of neglect.
Other studies have documented that only a few instances of nursing home abuse or neglect are reported, only one of every 24.
What are the Signs of Elder Neglect or Abuse?
There are several warning signs that could indicate that neglect or abuse is present.
They may include:
Sexual or Physical Abuse
Sexual or physical abuse is displayed with unexplained bruises, burns, cuts, or fractures, bleeding from the genital area or bruising in that area. Torn or ripped undergarments could also be an indicator or sexual abuse.
Financial misconduct may be represented by the lack of comfort items and amenities. If a caregiver is in control of the older person’s finances but does not provide the needs of the older person is one example. The elder may give away expensive gifts or money for the care that is needed. Often, a senior will sign power of attorney or will transfer property or assets without understanding what the meaning of the transaction is.
Emotional abuse is recognized by changes in personality or behavior. Fearfulness or changes in usual activity or alertness is a good warning sign. Rocking or mumbling is another sign of emotional abuse. Being withdrawn from family or friends is an indicator that the caregiver may impose on the elder if emotional abuse is present.
Neglect is evident when there is a lack of hygiene and soiled or inappropriate clothing. The elder could be confined and left without supervision or care. There could be pressure ulcers or bedsores left untreated. If the home is in disrepair, cluttered, or dirty this is an obvious warning sign of neglect. If the elder is going without medical aids such as dentures, glasses, hearing aid, a walker or medications, neglect may be present.
Where Do I Report Abuse or Neglect?
If you witness abuse or neglect in a nursing home that is an emergency situation, you should immediately call 911.
If the abuse is not life-threatening contacting local law enforcement or the district attorney’s office is your first step to file an official report of the abuse. There are other resources to assist you in reporting cases of neglect or abuse. The Adult Protective Services is one of the first agencies that will respond and will investigate the reports of neglect or abuse.
The National Council on Child Abuse and Family Violence will have a list of elder abuse hotlines in every state.
For more information about how to contact the Adult Protective Services in your state, you can contact the Eldercare Locator. There is a United States Administration on Aging protective service in every state that may be a resource, as well.
Even if you are reporting instances of neglect or abuse to Adult Protective Services or the local law enforcement agency, it is further recommended that you contact a nursing home neglect lawyer that is licensed and experienced in nursing home abuse or neglect.
An experienced elder abuse attorney will be able to assist you in reporting the neglect or abuse to the correct authorities. The attorney will also assist in following up on the agency and help you explore your legal rights and options. You should contact a nursing home lawyer in your community to seek legal advice in these types of cases.