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Why Does Elder Abuse Occur?

Little research has shed light on the causes of elder abuse, but the National Research Council (US) Panel to Review Risk and Prevalence of Elder Abuse and Neglect finds that three broad situations lead to elder abuse:

  1. Stressful working conditions in elder care facilities that are often a result of staffing shortages. Nursing assistants, who are the primary caregivers in nursing homes, are overworked and underpaid and take their frustrations out on residents.
  2. Staff burnout, which is also caused by staffing shortages and mandatory overtime. Similarly, frustrated employees are taking out their anger on residents.
  3. A mixture of resident aggression and the staff’s lack of behavioral training.

Much of the data on elder abuse in assisted living facilities comes from nurses aid registries. Directors and managers of nurses aide registries as well as some governmental agency studies by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. General Accounting Office, the U.S. Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health, and the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging have attributed staffing shortages and low staff to resident ratios as the major cause of abuse and neglect in nursing homes.

Other risk factors that managers and directors of nurses aide registries cite for elder abuse and neglect in elder care facilities include:

  • Inability or difficulty in hiring qualified staff
  • Poor training
  • Poor supervision and management
  • High staff turnover
  • Low wages
  • Combative residents
  • Vulnerable residents

Training Staff to Deal with Aggressive Residents

It suggested that Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) have historically received inadequate training on how to handle a combative or aggressive resident. In some cases, there is a simple disconnect, whether cultural or social, and a CNA has a distorted view of abuse and neglect. Some CNAs go as far as treating residents like children.

The broad consensus remains that offering more or better training about abuse and neglect will drastically reduce incidents in elder care facilities.

Risk Factors of Elder Abuse

Establishing a strong causal connection to certain behaviors and elder abuse is difficult, if not impossible. Yet, researchers have spent a great deal of effort identifying risk factors of elder abuse. These are characteristics about the victim, the abuser, the relationship, location, and social norms, that are similar across many cases of nursing home abuse and neglect.

Victim risk factors. There is strong evidence that the presence of a disability or functional dependence, poor physical health, cognitive impairment, poor mental health, and a low socioeconomic status are risk factors for elder abuse. Other potential victim risk factors include gender, age, financial dependence, and race.

Abuser risk factors. Overwhelming evidence supports that those who abuse elders might have a mental illness, might have a substance abuse problem, or suffer from abuser dependency.

Relationship factors. The relationship between the abuser and victim doesn’t factor into nursing home abuse as strongly as other situations, but a relationship between the victim and the abuser might be a risk factor. This is especially true when resident-on-resident abuse occurs in a nursing home. Facilities are also liable for this kind of abuse if they know it is happening and don’t stop it.

Societal factors. Research on societal factors of elder abuse is heavily contested, but some support the idea that negative stereotypes about aging and cultural norms play a large role in elder abuse.

Having knowledge about the causes and risk factors of elder abuse in a nursing home will let you better monitor the care of your loved one.

Contact Us for a Free Consultation if a Loved One Has Been Abused

An experienced attorney will review your case, determine your loved one’s eligibility for compensation related to their abuse or neglect, and advise you on the best course of action for your particular circumstances.

Call us today at 800-516-4783.

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