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Preventing Nursing Home Abuse

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Elder abuse is a significant form of human rights violation, and a real, existing evil in our current society.   Greater awareness  of the problem may help detect and prevent elder abuse and bring relief to elderly individuals who have had their rights and dignity taken away.

Aging can take its toll on the body and mind, leaving the elderly in a weakened physical and mental condition, vulnerable to abuse. 

In today’s economic environment, both men and women must work for a living, leaving no one to stay home and care for the elderly. Per the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, private nursing homes are a growing industry. Sadly, nursing home abuse is also a growing concern. 

Refusal or failure to provide an elderly person with the necessities of life by those who have the responsibility to do so constitutes elder neglect. These life necessities include food, water, hygiene, clothing, medical care, shelter, and safety. Some signs of neglect are dehydration, lack of personal hygiene, untreated bed sores, unsanitary and unclean living conditions, hazardous living conditions, and the elder’s own report of mistreatment.

Physical force that causes pain or injury can take the form of shaking, slapping, kicking, pinching, striking, burning, and other types of physical violence. It can also take the form of overmedication, physical restraint, force-feeding, and physical punishment. Be alert for symptoms of physical abuse, such as bruises, lacerations, broken bones or fractures, cuts, punctures, burns, the elder’s report of abuse, changes in behavior, or the reluctance of the caregiver to allow the elder to be alone with visitors.

Sexual abuse of the elderly does happen. Be alert to bruising around the breasts or genitals, venereal disease or genital infection, vaginal or anal bleeding, torn, stained, or bloody underclothing, and the elder’s report of sexual abuse.

As there are no visible physical signs of emotional abuse, mistreatment of the elderly in this particular form can be more difficult to detect. It can involve threats, insults, humiliation, harassment, and isolation. Observe the elder for emotional distress, non-communicative and non-responsive behavior, and listen to any report from the elder concerning verbal or emotional mistreatment.

One type of elder abuse that does not generally occur in nursing homes is financial abuse. According to a study published by the Journal of General Medicine, as many as one in every 20 elderly U.S. citizens may be financially exploited. This abuse most frequently occurs at the hands of the elders’ adult children, friends and family. Older people who are socially isolated and experiencing mental and physical decline are vulnerable to this type of abuse. 

If you have an elder friend or family member who is in a nursing home or has a care giver, watch for signs for abuse.   Most elder care facilities are staffed with kind and compansionate people, but remaining vigilant and involved in your loved ones care is always important.   

Should you have a loved one who is injured in a care facility, call our offices.   For over 40 years, the attorneys at LDM&M have been helping individuals across Wisconsin receive the legal satisfaction that they deserve.  Contact our offices for a free, personal consolation.