The decision to place a loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility can be an incredibly difficult one. Aside from the emotional impact of such a decision, there are a variety of factors to think about when choosing a facility for your loved one. Location, proximity to your loved one’s doctors, whether or not the facility has memory care, and building accessibility are just a few of the factors in your decision. However, another major factor is the impression you get from the employees and people who will be caring for your loved one. Will they be treated well? Should you be worried about elder abuse?
What is Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse is any harm that is deliberately and repeatedly inflicted on a senior adult. This harm could be physical, mental, emotional, financial, and/or sexual. Elder abuse is most commonly perpetrated by caregivers, both family/friends, and paid caregivers. One of the most common forms of elder abuse is neglect, particularly of the physically disabled and those with memory problems. According to Oxford, the definition of “neglect” is, failing to care for properly, and the state of being uncared for.
Who is at Risk?
Seniors with mental illness or memory problems such as Alzheimer’s’ disease or a syndrome like dementia are at the highest risk for elder abuse. It is estimated that half of all older people with dementia are abused. Women are more likely to suffer elder abuse, with 2 out of 3 victims being women. Other risk factors include stressed or overwhelmed caregivers, poverty, and substance abuse on the part of either the senior or the caregiver. Living in a nursing home is yet another risk factor.
Will My Loved One Be Abused in a Nursing Home?
Unfortunately, it’s very possible. Up to 24.3% of elderly people living in nursing homes have experienced abuse, but the actual number may be much higher. In Ohio, about 15,000 cases of nursing home abuse are reported each year. Most cases of nursing home abuse go unreported due to unwillingness and/or inability to report. Seniors can be a very proud population, and they may be unwilling to reveal that they have been abused for fear of losing their dignity. The most vulnerable population, those with mental illness and memory disorders, may not have the mental capacity to articulate what has happened to them. It is estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse are reported.
How Do I Prevent Nursing Home Abuse?
Don’t let these scary statistics discourage you from finding a good facility for your loved one. There are plenty of ways to judge whether a facility is safe. First, look for a not-for-profit facility, rather than one whose main purpose is to ensure a profit. Second, look for facilities with monitoring systems (security cameras, etc). If abuse does occur, someone will see it on the monitoring system and take action. Once your loved one is in a nursing home, there’s still plenty you can do to keep them safe. Visit them often. Entrust multiple family members to consistently keep in touch with them. Isolation is another risk factor for abuse. Always watch out for physical warning signs, such as bruises, broken eyeglasses, and unexplained infections. Warning signs of emotional and verbal abuse can be harder to catch. Look for changes in mood or demeanor, and always listen if your loved one talks about not liking certain staff members. Ask why. Take all allegations seriously, even if your loved one has a history of making false accusations or being confused due to mental illness. It is always better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to abuse!
What Should I Do If I Suspect Abuse?
Gather any evidence you can. If you are able, plant a microphone or camera in your loved one’s room with their permission and try to catch the abuser in the act. Keep a record of any instances of abuse that are reported to you. Note name of every caretaker, dates, times, and any details you are given. Report the abuse to Adult Protective Services and/or the police, and consider removing your loved one from the nursing home’s care as soon as possible.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
If your loved ones have suffered elder abuse in a nursing home, Steuer, Escovar, and Coleman can help you hold the responsible party accountable. Contact us at (216) 771-8121 for a FREE consultation today, or visit us on our website.
*In the event of an emergency or serious injury, call 911 right away.