Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys
Elder abuse can happen anytime and anywhere. Whether it’s a worker at a nursing facility calling a resident names or a relative taking financial advantage of an older family member, elder abuse is a widespread issue that affects millions of Americans.
The rise of elder abuse can be partially attributed to the yearly increase in life expectancy thanks to improvements in late-life care and modern medicine. However, growing populations of older adults also mean more opportunity for elder abuse.
Older adults are considered highly vulnerable because they may experience cognitive decline, physical ailments, or lack the ability to report abuse by their caretakers. This should not be the case.
Although the reporting of elder abuse is not where it should be, those who have experienced abuse at nursing homes or by family members have recourse. Learn more about how a lawsuit can help an older adult get the justice they deserve.
Elderly Abuse Definition & Types
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “elder abuse is an intentional act, or failure to act, by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult.1”
The CDC defines an older adult as someone who is 60 years or older. Most people assume that elder abuse is only bodily harm dealt to an older adult. However, the CDC reports at least five different ways an older adult can be abused.
Here are the five common types of elder abuse:
Physical abuse is when someone intentionally uses physical force on an older adult that results in bodily harm, illness, pain, impairment, or death. Examples of physical abuse include hitting, scratching, pinching, biting, stomping, choking, suffocation, shaking, and burning.
Sexual abuse can occur at any age. If an older adult is forced into an unwanted sexual interaction, he or she has been sexually abused. The CDC lists several examples of sexual abuse among the elderly. For example, it could be intentional touching of the genitals or penetration of another person by an object.
Sexual abuse can also happen to someone who is not capable or competent to give consent.
In some cases, an older adult could be abused emotionally or psychologically by a caretaker or family member. This includes verbal or nonverbal actions that cause anguish, fear, mental pain, and distress to an older adult. Name-calling, bullying, isolating from friends, controlling through limiting communication, or threatening bodily harm are all examples of emotional abuse that can be inflicted upon older adults.
The inaction of a caretaker or family member can also be considered elder abuse. A caretaker is often responsible for ensuring an older adult is free from harm and receives essentials, such as food and medicine. A failure to provide adequate care — whether intentional or accidental — can result in serious harm to an older adult.
According to the CDC, “examples include not providing adequate nutrition, hygiene, clothing, shelter, or access to necessary health care; or failure to prevent exposure to unsafe activities and environments.”
If a caregiver or family member uses an older adult’s resources illegally, improperly, or in an unauthorized manner that benefits someone other than the older individual, they are inflicting financial abuse. For example, a worker at a nursing home may try to use coercion or deception to take money from an older adult. Other times, an older adult may not have the mental wherewithal to make sound financial decisions.
Statistics on Elderly Abuse
Tracking the incidence of elder abuse over time has proven difficult. Not only has elder abuse been poorly or too narrowly defined but countless cases of elder abuse go unreported every year. In fact, the National Center on Elder Abuse reports that elder abuse may be missed by professionals working with older adults because they may be unaware or lack vital training. Older adults may also be reluctant or unable to report abuse for a variety of reasons2.
Despite the unreliable reports, studies have attempted to track the prevalence of elder abuse in the United States.
According to one study from 2015, an estimated one in 10 older adults were subjected to at least one of the five main types of abuse2. Another study based in New York estimated that one in 13 older adults in the state had been victims of elder abuse in the past year.
In one look at elder abuse by family members, verbal mistreatment was the most frequently reported, followed by financial exploitation and physical mistreatment.
Nursing homes are also plagued by elder abuse, according to some studies3. A report from the Minority Staff of the Special Investigations Division of the House Committee on Government Reform in the early 2000s found that almost a third of all certified facilities had received a citation for an abuse violation4. It also noted that the number of nursing homes with abuse violations had been increasing.
How to Use the Elderly Abuse Hotline
Elder abuse should not happen, yet it is a widespread problem that affects older adults from all walks of life. Fortunately, there are things you can do if you suspect elder abuse.
If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call the police or 9-1-1. If the danger is not immediate, several hotlines will help connect victims or family members to the appropriate agency.
The best resource for finding a number to report abuse or mistreatment is at the National Center on Elder Abuse. The site has a map that allows you to find the best number to call in each state, whether it’s the state’s adult protective services or the department of aging.
Filing an Elder Abuse Lawsuit
Whether you’re being abused or have an older relative who is being abused, there are courses of action you can take to seek justice and compensation. A victim and their family can file a lawsuit against the perpetrator of elder abuse to help stop the abuse and gain restitution for the wrongdoing.
A lawsuit can shed light on an abuser at a nursing home that leads to policy changes at the facility, reprimands against the perpetrator, and financial damages to the abused adult.
If you think you have a case related to elder abuse, contact an attorney to learn more.