Gemma Hunt was kind enough to offer to write the following article for us.
Abuse and neglect of elderly people is widespread across community care facilities. In a survey sampling 2,000 residents of nursing homes, 44% said that they had been the victim of abuse and nearly all residents (95%) reported that they or another resident in the home had been neglected. State monitoring of the situation is often inadequate. 15% of government surveys miss actual harm and immediate danger to a resident in a nursing home and another 70% of their surveys missed one or more areas of shortfall where a nursing home could improve.
Recent studies on the incidence of elder abuse found that 10% of people interviewed had been abused at some point in the last year. Despite this, only around one in 14 abuse cases ever come to light.
Types of Elder Abuse
Elder abuse can take several forms:
Physical Abuse – Being slapped, punched, aggressively restrained or beaten
Sexual Abuse – Being touched inappropriately, raped or any other type of sexual abuse
Emotional Abuse – Being bullied, called names and criticised constantly by the perpetrator to make the victim feel bad about themselves
Financial Abuse – Having a person of trust steal their pension money or other income.
Neglect – Having their care needs neglected (such as not being taken to the toilet, or being left in bed for hours).
The Decision to Choose a Nursing Home is Difficult
The decision to choose a nursing home for an elderly relative can be difficult and lots of families agonize over the choice. However, sometimes there is no other option. If you have a full time job, if your relative has complex care needs and needs more supervision than you can provide, a good nursing home can provide a loving and supportive environment with the medical care they need. Unfortunately some care homes are better than others.
Signs of Elder Abuse
Some of the signs of elder abuse include:
- Unexplained bruising or black eyes
- Marks on the wrists or ankles from restraints
- Burn marks
- Broken teeth
- Admission to hospital for medication overdose or seeing your relative experience symptoms of overdose (like drowsiness, nausea and vomiting, confusion)
- Diagnosis of sexually transmitted infection when your relative is not known to be in a sexual relationship
- Blood on their underwear
- Bruising to the genital area, inner thighs or breasts
- The person may be anxious of receiving help for their intimate care needs or be overly nervous of medical examinations
- Social withdrawal
- Agitation and fear, becoming quiet when perpetrator is in the room, difficulty sleeping, poor appetite
- Malnourishment – asking for water when you visit or appearing hungry
- Smelling strongly of body odor, faeces or urine
- Having unkempt hair or clothing
- Bed sores or untreated infections
- Lots of ATM charges
- Insufficient funds in their bank
- New ‘friends’ you didn’t know about
- Improbable changes to their will
How to Help Your Loved One
If you suspect elder abuse or your loved one has told you they are being abused, always take their word for it. Don’t wait for evidence before you act.
You should report this to your local Adult Protective Services division. APS provide protective and supportive services to older or disabled adults who are being abused or neglected. You can find their number in the blue pages under Department of Human Services or Social Services. You can also contact the Eldercare Locator on 1-800-677-1116 and they can help you find the appropriate agency.
You could also contact your loved one’s doctor to obtain assistance and a medical report on their condition.
If they are in immediate danger of assault you should call the police. This is an emergency situation and the police can investigate criminal matters and remove your relative from danger if it is necessary.
If the abuse is taking place in a care facility, you can contact the long-term care ombudsman from the Ombudsman Program. This government run program investigates allegations of abuse in residential care. The Eldercare Locator can also give you their contact details.
If you or a relative has been abused or neglected in a nursing or residential home, you can seek compensation for your injuries, distress and ill treatment. Elder abuse is not acceptable and should never be ignored. Hiring a skilled nursing home attorney is one way you can hold the perpetrators responsible. Poliakoff and Associates, PA, is one of South Carolina’s most well established law firms with specialists on the rights of the elderly and personal injury cases. We operate a no win, no fee system to help you get justice whatever your circumstances.
Statistics/Data, National Center on Elder Abuse, updated: July 2017, http://www.aginginplace.org/guide-to-recognizing-elder-abuse/
Elder Abuse, Medlineplus, accessed December 22, 2014, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/elderabuse.html
The Essentials: Preventing Elder Abuse, accessed December 22, 2014, https://www.metlife.com/assets/cao/mmi/publications/essentials/mmi-preventing-elder-abuse-essentials.pdf