Elder Abuse and Neglect: A Looming Epidemic

Nurse Holding Elderly Patient's HandLouisville, KY- Our senior years are supposed to be our golden years where we enjoy the fruits of our labor and enjoy our remaining days. But unfortunately for some seniors, especially those who need others to help them meet their daily needs, their golden years can be tainted by abuse or neglect.

We don’t necessarily like the idea that we will one day have to place our elderly loved ones in a nursing home nor do we like to think that we will have to live in a long-term care facility. But for many people they have no alternative. People, who are not completely mobile, suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s, or have other health issues that require constant care, have few choices of where they can spend their final years.

Seniors often fear that they will be abused or neglected in a nursing home or assisted-living facility. The first line of defense in preventing the abuse and neglect of the elderly is to thoroughly research a facility before placing your loved one. Unfortunately, even if you have thoroughly researched a facility, your loved one may still face abuse or neglect.

The National Center on Elder Abuse cites a study in which 50 percent of staff at long-term care facilities admitted to mistreating a resident at least once in the preceding year. That mistreatment included physical violence, mental abuse or neglect. Two-thirds of those incidents involved neglect and female residents are abused at a higher rate than male residents.

Another study found that one in ten seniors experienced abuse or neglect that did not involve financial exploitation.

The abuse of elderly adults is a looming epidemic as the senior population is expected to double over the next decade, which means that current population of nursing homes will also grow exponentially.

According to Families for Better Care, a non-profit group that advocates for seniors living in long-term care facilities cites understaffing as the primary cause of abuse and neglect. Frustrated and overworked staff can lash out at a resident. With inadequate staff, abusers are given more opportunity to abuse a vulnerable adult.

It is unlikely that in the future these long-term care facilities will have enough staff to accommodate their burgeoning populations so it is up to our lawmakers to address this issue before things get out of control. Some states mandate the amount of staff these facilities must maintain, but there is no national standard. It would be pertinent that the issue of understaffing be addressed before too many seniors are put in harm’s way because a facility too focused on making a profit than providing quality care.

When a resident of a nursing home is abused or neglected they face fines from state and federal agencies but these fines are not punitive enough to reverse the course of this epidemic. Sometimes civil suit filed with the help of a nursing home abuse attorney is the best way to show a facility abuse and neglect will not be tolerated.