Nursing Home Abuse- WheelchairChicago, IL-The news is replete with stories of child abuse, animal abuse and spousal abuse, but there is one type of abuse that is often ignored; elder abuse. The number of seniors is growing and by 2050, people aged 65 and older will make up 20 percent of the U.S. population so it is crucial that the scope of the problem be recognized and we as a society take steps to prevent abuse of the elderly in long-term care facilities and in their homes.

Elder abuse can take many forms and can include neglecting a senior’s basic needs. While there are no concrete figures on the exact scope of elder abuse, data from the National Council of Elder Abuse can shed a light on the scope of the problem.

What are the types of abuse?

Physical abuse includes behaviors towards an elderly person that can cause bodily harm, injury and unnecessary pain. Physical abuse can also include using unnecessary restraints on an individual or unnecessary pulling and tugging of a patient.

Sexual abuse includes any form of unwanted sexual contact such as touching, sexual assault and rape.

Verbal abuse can include threats or words intended to intimidate, isolate, humiliate, ridicule or cause physiological damage to the victim.

Neglect is the denial of an elderly person’s basic needs. This can be passive or active. Active neglect occurs when a caregiver purposely withholds care. Passive neglect is far more common and occurs when a seniors needs are not recognized.

Financial abuse or exploitation is the act of taking advantage of an elderly person to gain access to their savings or bank accounts.

Facts about elder abuse:

  • One in ten seniors experience abuse other than financial exploitation.
  • Financial exploitation of the elderly is more common and cost seniors over a billion dollars annually.
  • Ninety percent of those who abuse the elderly are family members, most often spouses, adult children and other family members.
  • Women are more likely to be abused than men and older seniors are more often the victims of abuse or neglect.
  • Disabled seniors are more likely to be abused.
  • Seniors with dementia are also more vulnerable to abuse. A 2009 study showed that 50 percent of people who suffer from dementia were subjected to some sort of abuse.
  • Most cases of elder abuse go unreported.

There is no profile of the individual who abuses seniors; they come from all walks of life, races and genders. However, caregivers who abuse the elderly may give warning signs; those signs include:

  • Inability to cope with stress.
  • Depression, which is common among caregivers.
  • Lack of support from other potential caregivers.
  • The caregiver’s perception that taking care of the elder is burdensome and without psychological reward.
  • Substance abuse.

When someone detects the signs of elder abuse, either in a long-term care facility or on the behalf of the individual’s caregiver they should contact the proper authorities to investigate the claims. In some cases, the injured party/parties can contact a nursing home abuse attorney to help them file a civil suit.