As our baby boomers grow older and more vulnerable, many will move into nursing homes where they may be prone to abuse and neglect despite the belief that they will receive the care and attention they need. While you think you sent your loved one to a nursing home facility for better care and safety, you later found out that it was far from the truth. The National Center on Elder Abuse has stated that it is not certain how many older Americans will suffer elder abuse and neglect. But one recent major study stated the rate could be as high as ten percent, without even considering financial abuse. Elder abuse has emerged as some nursing homes turn to cheap, nontrained labor to provide assistance to its residents. Elder abuse is any kind of abuse that is suffered by an aging person that is not the result of an accident. Different types of elder abuse may include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial exploitation, neglect, abandonment, and self-neglect.
Each type of elder abuse is discussed separately below.
- Physical abuse is physical force from nursing home staff that results in injuries to an elderly person. Physical abuse may include hitting, kicking, slapping, shoving, or smacking someone. Physical abuse can also involve using drugs inappropriately or force-feeding the individual and using physical restraints. Signs that physical abuse may be occurring include bruises, abrasions, black eyes, scratches, cuts, or marks left from restraints.
- Emotional abuse occurs when an elderly patient is treated or spoken to in ways that cause them emotional distress and wears down their sense of self-worth. This may include insulting them or verbal assaulting them, humiliating them, belittling the victim, or even intimidating or harassing the elder. Some signs of emotional abuse may include seeing your loved one agitated or upset, dealing with a lack of sleep, lost or gained weight, fatigue, or even seeing your loved one not communicating, unresponsive or withdrawn.
- Sexual abuse is any non-consensual sexual contact conducted without consent with an elder, including forcing an elderly person to watch sexual acts against their will. Sexual abuse in a nursing home is troubling because the resident may be to some degree incapacitated and the staff member is generally in a position of power and authority. Residents who could be particularly at risk of being sexually assaulted are those with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other issues that can impair their memory. Sexual abuse may not involve touching. It could consist of forcing a resident to view pornography or other people’s sexual acts, or to undress in front of someone without a valid reason. Some signs that an elderly person has been sexually abused include unexplained STDs, genital infections, bloody or stained underwear, or a report by the elder that he or she is being abused.
- Financial exploitation is another form of abuse that commonly occurs in nursing homes. Some nursing home residents fall victim to financial schemes and end up losing a significant amount of money or have their identity stolen. Financial exploitation is the improper or illegal use of an elderly person’s assets or other property. Obviously, a nursing home resident can be an easy target for theft, and are more likely to be scammed or tricked into giving away their life savings to someone else in power. This may include taking stealing from the elder, signing checks of the elder’s, forging their signature, making the elder sign power of attorney and other documents they may not understand, or just plainly stealing their money.
- Neglect of the elderly is defined as refusing or failing to provide the elderly person with the care they need, including providing food, nutrition, medication or therapy, or simply leaving the resident alone and unattended for lengthy period of times. Neglect of the elderly happens when a person who has the obligation to give care to the elder fails to do so. Neglect of the elderly person usually means failing or refusing to provide the elder with the necessities of life, such as water, food, hygiene, medicine, shelter, clothing, or comfort that is required.
- Abandonment of an elder occurs when someone who has oversight or custody over the elder deserts them. This may occur if you find out your loved one was deserted at a public place, a nursing facility, or even a report from your loved one that they were abandoned.
- Self-neglect is characterized by the elder engaging in behaviors that threaten their personal health or safety. This may be seen when an older person refuses or fails to provide themselves with the necessities they need to live, including the proper amount of food, water, clothing, and medications.
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