If you have a parent, or other elderly loved one, in nursing home you undoubtedly worry about the care they are receiving. Sadly, you may also need to worry about your loved one becoming the victim of abuse while living in a nursing home. What may be more shocking is that instead of a staff member, it may be another resident who is abusing your loved one, according to a recent study conducted by physicians who are affiliated with the Center for Aging Research and Clinical Care. Although it may be a touchy subject, if you have a loved one in a nursing home, it is imperative that you discuss the possibility of abuse by another resident or staff member with your loved one. If you find that your loved one has already suffered abuse or neglect while at a nursing home, contact an experienced elder law attorney in your area.
The Surprise Offender
Although elder abuse and neglect is not a new problem in the United States, it is a growing problem. It is also an issue that has garnered a considerable amount of attention in recent years. One reason for both the increase in incidents and the attention the issue is receiving is that the older population (age 65 and older) has exploded in recent years and is expected to increase in the years to come. As such, people have been paying much more attention to the fact that elder abuse and neglect occurs at an alarming rate in the United States. While most people are aware that elder abuse and neglect may occur in nursing home settings, people may not be aware that the perpetrator is often another resident. In fact, about one in five nursing home residents have experienced verbal or physical mistreatment from other residents, according to Dr. Mark Lachs, the lead author of a recent study. Dr. Lachs, who heads the Center for Aging Research and Clinical Care, along with colleagues, conducted surveillance for a full month in each of 10 urban and suburban nursing homes in New York State. More than 2,000 residents participated in what Lachs described as the first large-scale, systematic study of its kind looking at resident-to-resident abuse.
According to Lachs, “mistreatment” encompassed a range of behaviors, from coming into someone else’s room and rifling through their belongings, to being run over by a wheelchair, having food taken off your plate uninvited, verbal abuse such as name-calling, and even instances of physical violence and sexual assault. It included any unwelcome behavior that had the potential to lead to physical or psychological distress in the person on the receiving end. Approximately 75 percent of the incidences of mistreatment were verbal while the remaining 25 percent were considered physical in nature. Those involved in the study were not surprised that violence and mistreatment occurred between residents; however, they were surprised at how often it occurred. Out of the 2,011 residents included in the study, 407 experienced at least one instance of mistreatment during the month the study took place.
The Elder Abuse and Neglect Problem
The recent study highlights yet another facet of the larger elder abuse and neglect problem in the United States. Every year an estimated 5 million older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation, according to The Administration for Community Living, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. What’s more, experts believe that for every case of elder abuse or neglect reported, as many as 23 cases go unreported. Moreover, financial abuse of the elderly is thought to occur on an even larger scale with the vast majority of the perpetrators of those crimes being family members and/or caretakers. The elderly will always be targets because they are vulnerable. If you have an elderly loved one who requires nursing home care, or who has a caretaker other than you, take the time to explain the dangers to your loved one and spend some extra time checking up on him/her to ensure that your loved one doesn’t become a victim of elder abuse or neglect. If your loved one has already been abused or neglected, contact the authorities and then consult with an experienced elder law attorney in your area about your legal option.
For additional information, please join us for one of our upcoming free seminars. If you have questions or concerns relating to elder abuse or neglect, contact the experienced Missouri elder law attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano by calling 314.966.8077 to schedule your appointment today.