What constitutes elder abuse?
Elder abuse comes in many forms and can take place anywhere that a senior lives: in the home, nursing facility, long term care center, or even at their own home with routine visitors. When we first imagine abuse, we might immediately think of physical abuse, the intentional physical harm of the victim through assault or denial of basic necessities like food, water, and a clean environment. Elders, however, can also be abused in other ways. Sexual, financial, and emotional abuse are perhaps even more common forms of abuse against elderly individuals because their signs are less apparent to the casual observer.
Financial abuse is often perpetrated against the elderly because they tend to be more trusting with their money and vulnerable to schemes, especially online. Financial abuse may involve stealing the elderly person's identity, withholding social and medical benefits from them, mismanagement of the money entrusted to caretakers, online scams, investment fraud, and simple theft.
Why does elder abuse occur so frequently?
Abuse usually stems from a relationship based on power and control. The nursing home staff has a substantial amount of control over their residents day to day lives. They dictate when the eat, sleep, use the restroom, receive medication, socialize, and go outside. This level of control lays the groundwork for an abusive relationship, especially if the elderly person has a difficult condition which can frustrate caretakers, such as Alzheimer's. Certain staff may not be trained properly which can cause frustration in both the staff and the residents, leading to abusive tendencies. Low pay, long hours, and understaffed facilities are all risk factors for abuse of residents in nursing homes.
What are the signs of elder abuse?
Warning signs of elder abuse look different for each form of abuse, but there are many ways to stay vigilant about the health and well-being of your loved one in a nursing home. Unexplained injuries or injuries with vague or inconsistent stories can always be a sign of physical abuse. Behavioral signs of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse all include social withdrawal, depression, anxiety, incontinence, loss of enjoyment in life, and unexplained or sudden weight loss. Physical signs of sexual abuse may not be apparent unless the patient is evaluated by a physician. It is also advisable to look for signs of tension between caregivers and their patients and to ask your loved one about the care they receive from each staff person, taking careful note of their behavior and reaction to being asked about each one.
How can I prevent elder abuse?
The most important thing you can do to prevent elder abuse is to report it and take action when you suspect it or know that it is occurring. Although you may not always be able to prevent elder abuse of your loved one before it begins, you can keep others and their families from having to go through the same trauma that your family might experience in such a situation by taking action against the abuser and speaking out. Remember, if you suspect abuse, there is probably a reason. You do not need hard evidence of abuse or neglect in order to warrant an investigation. In many cases, it is, in fact, dangerous to wait for such evidence, as abusers can be very careful to conceal proof of their mistreatment.
Will my loved one tell me if they are being abused?
Unfortunately, most cases of abuse go unreported because victims are afraid to speak out against their attackers for fear of retribution. Since they depend upon their abusers for basic physical care, they are highly vulnerable to manipulation. Abusers may threaten their victims with increased abuse if they speak out against them or withhold food, water, or care. In addition, abuse often involves intentional isolation of the victim which can decrease their social support and make them feel even weaker and more dependent. Your loved one may even deny abuse if asked about it directly. It is, therefore, imperative to educate yourself about the signs and symptoms of abuse and investigate your suspicions thoroughly.
Who should I talk to when I suspect elder abuse?
When you suspect abuse of any kind, there are multiple people to whom you may report it. If your loved one is in immediate danger, call 911 for police intervention. You may also choose to report suspected abuse to nursing home management if you have a good relationship with them, but prolonged investigations into individual staff members or punishments may cause an increase in abuse. If you are afraid that abuse might worsen, it is best to remove your loved one from the home and replace them in a different facility. You can report suspected abuse to Adult Protective Services (APS) or to your local ombudsman, an elected official who investigates long-term care facilities. A personal injury attorney can help you take the next steps in a private investigation.
Can I press criminal charges against the abuser and the nursing home?
In most cases, victims of elder abuse can file criminal charges against the abuser and the institution in which the abuse took place. When facilities such as nursing homes exhibit a pattern of abuse, the state in which they are located may also choose to press charges, especially if the facility houses Medicare and Medicaid recipients. There are countless laws in place to protect the elderly with specific fines and penalties for different forms of abusive behavior. Furthermore, caretakers are often mandated by state law to report any suspected abuse to Adult Protective Services (APS). If the nursing home fails to report abuse that has taken place at their facility, they are therefore susceptible to criminal charges.
What are the benefits of a civil lawsuit?
Most cases of elder abuse can be classified as either a criminal or civil offense or both. Criminal charges will result in penalties for the nursing home, but will not compensate victims of the abuse. In order to receive compensation for medical bills, hospital stays, counseling, physical therapy, and the cost of at home care if the victim is removed from the nursing home for a period of time, a personal injury lawsuit must be filed. Victims may also receive compensation for the pain and suffering that they experienced at the hands of their abuser which can provide comfort to victims and their families and help them move forward with their lives. Trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian are ready to get started on your case today. Call them at 800.529.6162 or contact them online.