The Ugly Truth about Elder Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes

Nurse Holding Elderly Patient's HandDenver, CO- You can hardly turn on the news or search the internet without running across stories of child abuse, animal abuse or spousal abuse, but there is one type of abuse that is largely overlooked by the news; that is elder abuse. And the problem is growing, by 2050 seniors will make up 20 percent of the American population, so it is critical lawmakers, citizens and elder advocates take steps to stop the abuse and neglect of the elderly.

Elder abuse and neglect can take many forms from physical abuse to neglect of a person’s basic needs. While there are no concrete figures on the prevalence of elder abuse, data from the National Center on Elder Abuse can shed a light on the scope of the problem.

What forms can elder abuse take?

Physical abuse includes hitting, slapping, punching, pinching, pulling or other physical actions towards an elderly person that cause bodily harm, injury, unnecessary pain, and, in some cases, death. Physical abuse can also include using unnecessary restraints on an individual and violent tugging of a nursing home resident.

Sexual abuse includes any form of unwanted sexual contact such as touching the elderly person’s genitals, sexual assault and rape. Though sexual abuse is less common than physical abuse, it has devastating effects on the victim.

Verbal abuse can include threats or hurtful words used to intimidate, isolate, humiliate, ridicule or cause physiological damage to the nursing home resident.

Neglect is the denial of an elderly person’s basic needs, which can be intentional or unintentional on behalf of nursing home employee or a primary caregiver. Intentional neglect occurs when a caregiver purposely withholds food, water, and other care from an elderly person who depends on others for their care. Unintentional neglect is far more common in Denver nursing homes, and occurs when an elderly person’s needs are not recognized or ignored.

Financial abuse or exploitation is the act of taking advantage of an elderly person to gain access to their savings or bank accounts and steal large sums of money from them.

Ugly truths about elder abuse:

  • One in ten elderly person’s experience abuse other than financial exploitation.
  • Financial exploitation 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 close family members.
  • Women are more likely to be the victims of abuse, and the older the individual the more often they are abused
  • Disabled seniors are more likely to be abused.
  • Seniors with dementia are also more vulnerable to abuse and neglect. A 2009 study showed that 50 percent of people who suffer from dementia were subjected to some form of abuse or neglect in a nursing home or in their own homes.
  • The majority of elder abuse cases go unreported.

There is no profile of an individual who abuses vulnerable elderly persons. Abusers come from all walks of life, race, gender and social status. However, there are some signs you can look for 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 Denver nursing home abuse attorney to help them file a civil suit and seek compensation for the abused or neglected individuals pain and suffering.