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How Common Is Abuse In Elderly Care Facilities?

The few studies that have focused on care facilities suggest that abuse in nursing homes is severely under-reported. If you suspect that an elder you love has experienced abuse in a nursing care facility, report the abuse as soon as possible. You should also consult an attorney for advice on the best path forward.

How Is Abuse Defined?

Abuse is a broad umbrella term that refers to specific forms of abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Here is the application of each in an elderly care facility setting:

  • Abuse refers to any act, threat, or omission by a nursing home employee or resident that may cause harm to an elder’s physical or mental health.
  • Neglect is the failure to act or intentional omission committed by a caregiver. This includes the failure, regardless of intention, to provide care, supervision, and service to maintain an elder’s physical and mental health. Failure to protect an elder from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by others is also considered neglect.
  • Exploitation often refers to financial abuse, but it also includes the misuse of a power of attorney or guardianship duties, stealing assets, and failing to use an elder’s income and assets to support the elder and provide necessities.

National Research Council Study on Elder Mistreatment

The National Research Council (NRC) commissioned the most comprehensive study on elder abuse in recent decades. Texas A&M University Public Health Scholar, Catherine Hawes, contributed to the study with her chapter on elder abuse in residential long-term care settings. Key takeaways from Hawes chapter speak to the prevalence of elder abuse in nursing homes:

  • Elders that live in long-term care facilities are more vulnerable than those who live at home because they are fully dependent on others to care for them.
  • The risk of abuse increases as an elder’s dependence increases, making those who suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s and other debilitating conditions most vulnerable.
  • Many nursing home residents cannot report abuse, or they don’t report abuse because they are fearful of retaliation.
  • Nurses and certified nursing assistants (CNAs) who have participated in focus groups and interviews with researchers have admitted to yelling at residents in anger, insulting residents, using foul language, threatening to hit a resident or throw something at them, pushing, grabbing, shoving, hitting, slapping and using restraints excessively.
  • In the same focus groups, CNAs admitted that abuse was common in elderly care facilities, especially when short-staffed. Common acts of neglect include failure to do a range of motion exercises, failure to turn and reposition residents, failure to provide fresh water and remind those who need help to drink, and failure to help residents eat meals.
  • Over time, hiring and reporting practices have deteriorated with nursing homes not screening new hires without histories of abusive behavior or failing to report abuse.

How Do I Know if the Elder that I Love Is Abused?

Your loved one might not be able to communicate with you due to fear or inability, so it’s up to you and outstanding medical professionals to look for signs of abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Here are some of the most common physical warning signs of elder abuse in a nursing care facility:

  • Unexplained cuts, bruises, wounds, and welts
  • Bedsores
  • Poor hygiene and soiled clothing
  • Repeated falls and injuries
  • Sunken cheeks and/or eyes
  • Trouble eating and sleeping
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Hair loss
  • Refusal to talk openly, especially in front of nursing home employees

Contact a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer for Legal Help

If you suspect that an elder that you love is being abused, neglected, or exploited in the nursing home where they reside, you need to take immediate action. Your loved one might be eligible for compensation for their abuse and related injuries. Contact a nursing home abuse lawyer at 1-800-516-4783 for a confidential consultation to determine the best way forward.