It is a difficult and often sad time when a person must make the decision to place their elderly loved one in a nursing home, but that decision is usually made with the expectation that their loved one will receive better medical attention and care than they can provide themselves. The unfortunate reality, however, is that nursing home residents oftentimes suffer from abuse and neglect, which not only causes illness and injury, but also significantly lowers their quality of life. In order to protect your loved ones from falling victim to such unacceptable practices, it is important to understand how often it occurs, what actually constitutes nursing home abuse and neglect, the signs of such abuse/neglect, and what you can do about it if it does happen.
Elder Neglect and Abuse Statistics
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 500,000 adults over the age of 60 are neglected, abused or financially exploited every year in the U.S. In fact, the number is very likely much higher, considering only one in every 14 incidents of abuse is never followed up on by authorities. Other notable statistics, provided by the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), claim that:
- More than 1 in 10 elders may suffer neglect and abuse, but only 1 in 5 are ever reported; and
- Between 1 and 2 million elders, aged 65 and older, have been exploited, injured or otherwise mistreated by someone they depended on for protection and/or care.
These statistics demonstrate that nursing home abuse and neglect are indeed a problem in need of resolution.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
Different states may focus on different categories of elder abuse and neglect; however, generally, there are seven categories, as established by the NCEA:
- Physical Abuse – Using force to physically injure or threaten a vulnerable elder;
- Emotional Abuse – Using threats, isolation, verbal attacks, rejection, or other belittling actions to cause distress, pain or mental anguish to an elder;
- Sexual Abuse – Forced, tricked, threatened or otherwise coerced sexual contact on a vulnerable elder. This also includes any elder who is unable to give consent;
- Exploitation – Theft, fraud, use of undue influence and neglect or misuse of authority to gain control over an elder’s money or property;
- Neglect- Refusing or failing to provide for a vulnerable older adult’s safety and/or physical or emotional needs;
- Self-Neglect – Being unable to understand the consequences of one’s own inaction or actions, which could lead to endangerment or harm; and
- Abandonment – Deserting a frail or vulnerable elder.
Common Signs of Nursing Home Neglect
Elders in nursing homes are dependent on other people for their medical attention and care and so when one of those people neglects or abuses them, it will likely never be reported. This is why it is important to be aware of the common signs of abuse and neglect, so that you can stop the abuse that your loved one is afraid to report. Some common signs of neglect and abuse include, but are not limited to:
- Unexplained bruising;
- Bed sores;
- Dirty and/or tattered clothing;
- Unexplained/sudden changes in finances;
- Altered wills;
- Poor or lack of personal hygiene;
- Fatigue and/or listlessness;
- Constant hunger, and even begging for food;
- Lack of dental or medical care;
- Malnutrition; and
- Left unattended for long periods of time.
If ignored, these signs may eventually result in serious illness, injury or even death. It is unacceptable that nursing homes, which should be run for the care and benefit of its residents, are instead often being run to benefit its owner and executives, who often cut corners in staffing and supplies in order to maximize profits for themselves.