Elder Abuse – Families Should Remain Vigilant
The issue of elder abuse and mistreatment is gaining more attention as more Americans are living longer lives. Currently, approximately 1.5 million Americans live in nursing homes or some type of assisted living facility, approximately 25% of which have been cited for abuse or neglect in one form or another. Additionally, a National Institute of Justice study, updated in March 2017, estimated that 11% of surveyed seniors living in a nursing home reported at least one form of mistreatment. This becomes increasingly important as the U.S. Census Bureau projects that more than 62 million Americans will be age 65 or older in 2025, an increase of 78 percent from 2001, and more than 7.4 million will be age 85 or older, an increase of nearly 68 percent from 2001.
Nursing homes are businesses with the same potential as other profit-driven organizations to place priority on earnings over quality control. Too often, nursing home workers are low-paid, overworked and poorly trained. Yet sometimes nursing home abuse can occur inside facilities that appear clean, professional and well-run to most outside observers. Unfortunately, the elderly are a very vulnerable population and not likely, and often not able, to complain about abuse, making them easy targets.
Mistreatment and Exploitation is Not Always Easy to Identify
Elder abuse by trusted caretakers can take many forms, from physical abuse to financial exploitation. While physical abuse may be evident, other types of abuse – such as neglect, false imprisonment and financial abuse – is less obvious. Physical abuse may be as severe as outright assault and battery or rape or consist of some form of forced restraint, either by physical means or through the use of medications.
Emotional abuse may include insults, humiliation, threats and attempts to frighten the resident, as well as crimes of omission such as ignoring, disregarding or isolating a resident. Neglect consists of not only failing to attend to a resident’s hygiene, but may include the withholding of food, water and/or medications as well.
Some Outward Signs of Elder Abuse to be Alert For
- Unusual bruising or bleeding
- Open wounds, bed sores or cuts
- Burns and abrasions
- Sudden and unexplained change in weight
- Soiling, poor hygiene, smell of urine or feces
- Recurring infections
- Loss of hair
- Torn, stained, or bloody clothing or bedding
Less Obvious Signs of Neglect or Abuse
- Listlessness or unresponsiveness
- Infantile or other strange behaviors
- Physical or emotional withdrawal
- Unexplained loss of personal items
- Sudden and unusual financial transactions or changes to estate planning documents
Pay Attention to Staff Behavior and Attitudes
Other signs of an abusive environment may be observed when visiting a facility. For example, something may be amiss if loved ones are not allowed visits, visits are delayed or if a staff member refuses to leave the room during a visit. Unclean cafeterias, un-emptied trash cans, unfriendly staff, etc. may indicate a facility is not operating as it should. More information regarding the common signs of elder abuse can be found at the National Center on Elder Abuse online.
Nursing homes are places where loved ones expect the elderly to be safe. Attention should be given to how a resident is being treated and help sought if abuse is suspected. The management of the facility, as well as the relevant authorities and agencies should be contacted regarding the abuse. Additionally, consultation with an attorney experienced with elder abuse should be considered, as lawsuits against the corporations that run many nursing homes can be complex.
For Additional Information
- National Institute of Justice
- National Criminal Justice Reference Service
- California Department of Justice
- United States Department of Justice
Robert Mandell Will Help You Evaluate Your Case
Robert Mandell is a personal injury and wrongful death attorney, and lead litigator at The Mandell Law Firm in Woodland Hills. He is experienced and knowledgeable in all areas of personal injury law, including elder abuse and neglect. Call him for a free evaluation of your claim. It’s important to work with a personal injury attorney who has demonstrated a determination to fight for his clients. Robert Mandell and the team at Mandell Law will fight to protect your rights. To arrange a free consultation, contact Robert Mandell at The Mandell Law Firm in Woodland Hills. 818.886.6600.