Our nation’s elderly are our greatest living accounts of history. They’ve lived through many of our nation’s greatest moments and often have a story to tell. Unfortunately, not everyone treats senior citizens with respect. Nursing home abuse and negligence are on the rise – a recent study from Cornell University found the actual incidence of elder abuse is about 24 times higher than reported to law enforcement or social services. Of the many types of abuse, psychological abuse is the most common. Learn about elder abuse, the signs of neglect, as well as when you should consult an attorney.
What is Elder Abuse?
As defined by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), elder abuse is any type of abuse or neglect of someone age 60 or older, performed by a caregiver, loved one, or anyone with whom there is an expectation of trust. Nursing home professionals, for example, should take care of residents.
While many types of abuse show a specific intent to harm, neglect is a little different. Nursing home neglect involves a breach of duty or providing substandard care to a patient, resulting in harm.
The Types of Nursing Home Neglect
Just as there are many types of abuse, there are also several different forms of nursing home neglect. The main kinds include:
- Social and emotional neglect. Patients in nursing homes must be well cared for, and that means socializing and tending to their emotions in a positive way. When the nursing home staff repeatedly ignores or yells at a patient, it’s social neglect.
- Personal hygiene neglect. Senior citizens must have their bedpans and sheets changed frequently. Often, they need help with tooth brushing, bathing, and laundering. Failure to provide this assistance is personal hygiene neglect.
- Basic needs neglect. Aside from providing personal hygiene, nursing home support professionals have an obligation to provide their residents with a safe and clean environment, with plenty of fresh food and water.
- Medical needs neglect. Nursing home residents may require medical care for diabetes, infections, limited mobility, or cognitive dysfunction.
What are the Signs of Nursing Home Neglect?
Generally, nursing home neglect will present warning signs. Such signs differ based on the type of neglect. Unfortunately, the elderly are often unable to advocate for themselves, occasionally lacking the mental capacity to do so. Like many victims of abuse, they may be afraid to speak up. If you have a loved one in a nursing facility, be on the lookout for signs of neglect:
- Sudden or rapid weight loss may be a sign of basic needs neglect.
- Persistent or recurrent bedsores or pressure ulcers may be an indication your loved one isn’t being turned often enough.
- Repeated injuries from falls may indicate a lack of support.
- Signs of dehydration or malnutrition: sunken in eyes, skin tenting, dry mouth, or cracked skin.
- Withdrawn behavior or sudden changes in behavior.
- Sudden changes in appearance, including changes in hygiene.
- A change in interaction with other residents and staff: For example, a person suffering from neglect may become less friendly to those around them.
- An unsafe environment: Slippery floors, poor lighting, and rickety furniture in a resident’s room are signs of an unsafe environment.
What Should I Do if I Suspect Elder Neglect?
The presence of any of these signs don’t necessarily mean elder neglect, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Report any suspected abuse or neglect to Adult Protective Services (find your local office by calling 800-677-1116). The agency will launch an investigation into your loved one’s case and take action if necessary.
If your loved one has been the victim of abuse or neglect, talk to a personal injury attorney.