Chicago, IL- The Alzheimer’s Society of America estimates that there are 5.3 million people currently suffering from dementia and that figure is expected to rise to 7.7 million by 2030. Many of those sufferers will have to be placed in nursing homes or other long term care facilities so abuse and neglect of dementia patients is a major concern that must be discussed, confronted and prevented.

The Alzheimer’s Society states that dementia sufferers are more vulnerable to abuse and neglect than other seniors. A survey of dementia patient caregivers conducted by the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) detected abuse and negligence in the responses of 46.7 percent of those surveyed. Another survey of dementia caregivers found that 20 percent of respondents feared they would abuse a patient.

The Department of Health defines abuse as the “violation of an individual’s human and civil rights by any other person or person’s.” Abuse can take me many forms; it can be verbal, physical, mental or sexual. Neglecting a person’s needs or safety is also a form of abuse.

In the NCEA survey, researchers found that verbal abuse was the most common with 60 percent of caregivers admitting to verbally abusing a patient at least once. Physical abuse was less common but 5 to 10 percent of dementia caregivers said they were physically abusive. Neglect, which is rife in some nursing homes, was reported by 14 percent of caregivers.

An abuser does not fit a certain profile; they come from all walks of life, races, genders and education levels. Some abusers are pathological and can’t stop themselves from harming a vulnerable adult or child. But some abusers are situational, and pushed to abuse a patient because they are tired or overworked, have an emotional problem, have trouble controlling their impulses or have the propensity towards assault or violence. Many caregivers are not properly trained in how to handle dementia patients, some of whom can be violent and difficult to care for.

Employee screening is designed to weed out any person who has a tendency towards violence or a criminal past, but this screening is not in-depth enough or followed up on.

People who have some form of dementia are more easily neglected or abused because they lack the ability to tell someone they are being abused or often forget about the incidents. They may be reluctant to tell others because they fear they won’t be believed and others will think because of their condition that they are unreliable witnesses. For all these reasons, dementia suffers are more often target by intentional and “unintentional” abusers.

Even when dementia patient is unable to communicate that they are being abused, family members can look for the signs of abuse or neglect. When they believe their loved one is being harmed at a facility, their families must address the issue with Their next course of action  should be to consult with a nursing home abuse attorney to determine if they have grounds for civil action.