Whether living at home or in an assisted living facility, a startling number of elders in the U.S. experience abuse. A 2011 study found that 7 to 10 percent of elderly Americans suffered abuse in the year prior, and unfortunately, that number could be much higher. For every case that is reported to authorities, another handful go unnoticed and unaddressed.
For more information about filing a claim for elder abuse, malnutrition or dehydration in nursing homes, or pressure ulcers in nursing homes, call Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi at (201) 585-9111 or contact us online.
What is elder abuse?
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The National Research Council defines elder abuse as “intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable elder by a caregiver or other person who stands in a trust relationship to the elder.” Abuse does not have to be a violent action against the elder; rather, it could be a failure to provide basic services or care.
Nursing home abuse includes:
- Physical abuse: the use of physical force against an elder, including hitting, punching, slapping, kicking, striking, shaking, burning, or pushing.
- Sexual abuse: the initiation of unwanted sexual activity with an elder, whether through threats, deception, use of force, or taking advantage of an elder who lacks the presence of mind to consent.
- Psychological abuse: the use of words or actions to frighten, belittle, threaten, isolate, reject, humiliate, or bully the elder.
- Financial exploitation: unlawful or improper control of an elder’s finances or property through deception, coercion, misappropriation, forgery, or theft.
- Neglect: the withholding of care from an elder who is unable to care for themselves, including withholding food, water, necessary medication, or medical care.
How common is elder abuse/nursing home abuse?
A House of Representatives investigation found that more than 30 percent of nursing homes in the U.S. were cited for an abuse violation during a two-year period. Further, the investigation found that almost 10 percent of all nursing homes were cited for abuse violations that resulted in actual harm to residents.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 500,000 American elders suffer from neglect or abuse every year—which does not even begin to account for the thousands of elders who suffer in silence. The New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study estimated that for every one case of elder abuse reported to the authorities, another 24 go unreported.
Adults age 65 and up now represent 13 percent of the overall population, and that trend is expected to continue through 2050, when 65+ Americans will make up one-fifth of the population.
What are the signs of abuse?
Many elders prefer to suffer in silence rather than stand up against their abuser, which makes the role of family and friends so crucial. By noticing certain tell-tale signs, an elder’s loved ones can recognize potential abuse and step in.
According to the National Adult Protective Services Association, warning signs of elder abuse include:
- Sudden inability to meet physical, psychological, or social needs threatening health, well-being, or safety
- Falling out of contact with neighbors, friends, or family
- Welts or bruising on the skin, especially those appearing on the face or arms (research has shown that bruises are significantly more likely to form in cases of abuse than cases of accidental injuries)
- Fingerprints or handprints visible on the face, neck, arms, or wrists
- Burns from scalding, cigarettes, or in the shape of an object (such as an iron)
- Cuts, lacerations, or puncture wounds
- Sprains, fractures, or dislocations
- Internal injuries or vomiting
- Torn, stained, or bloody clothing
- Disheveled appearance, sometimes coupled with soiled clothing or inappropriate attire for the weather
- Appearing malnourished, dehydrated, hungry, disoriented, or confused