Nursing Home Abuse – Contributing Factors

Nursing home abuse is a serious problem which will probably only get worse as the population ages. Some seniors are at greater risk for elder mistreatment due to a number of factors:

  • Family contact: Seniors or other adults who are in a long-term care facility and have little contact with their family members may be at greater risk for abuse and neglect. When there is little contact with people outside the facility, elder mistreatment and neglect may go unidentified for long periods of time.
  • Understaffed facilities: Residents who are in a facility that has trouble meeting its staffing needs are often at greater risk than those who are in well-staffed facilities. Abuse and neglect are often symptoms of greater problems inside the facility, particularly if the facility is depending on temporary agencies or other transient employees to maintain its quota of staff to patients.
  • Patients with disabilities: People who have disabilities are far more likely to experience abuse, regardless of whether they’re male or female. Unfortunately, this population is more vulnerable than other populations with more than half of all disabled adults being victimized over the course of their lifetime.
  • Patients with dementia: A growing population of seniors in skilled nursing facilities are affected by dementia. By some measures, more than 5 million people over the age of 65 experience some form of dementia. Sadly, nearly one-half of these patients will suffer some form of elder abuse at the hands of a caregiver because they cannot protect themselves.

Abuse in Adults with Disabilities

Some studies estimate that one in three adults over the age of 65 suffers from some type of a disability. Because the incidents of abuse are more pronounced in this segment of the population, it is important to know what types of abuse these victims can suffer. You should be aware of some of the more common statistics:

  • Nearly one-third of adults report physical, verbal, or financial abuse by a caregiver. It is important to be aware that people who are lower on the socioeconomic scale are often at greater risk.
  • Abuse does not decrease based on gender. In fact, in some studies, more than one-half of disabled males report being abused physically by a caregiver. While the incidents of abuse for females are greater, men can be as easily abused or victimized as women.
  • Disabled adults in a long-term care facility are more likely to suffer some form of abuse. One report stated that 21 percent of women who were not institutionalized were abused, whereas the rate of abuse among institutionalized women increased to more than 30 percent.

Preventing Elder Mistreatment and Abuse of the Vulnerable

One of the best methods of preventing abuse is to remain in regular contact with a loved one who lives in a nursing home or assisted living facility. This means visiting at different times of the day and on different days. It’s also a good idea to get to know the staff who are caring for your loved one. Those who are especially vulnerable, particularly people who have disabilities or are suffering some form of dementia, often need additional attention from friends and family members. Any indication of abuse or neglect should be reported as quickly as possible to the administration of the facility as well as to the Ohio Department of Health Abuse Hotline and the appropriate local agencies.

When we trust a nursing facility to provide care to an aging loved one, we never anticipate they will be placed at risk for abuse of any kind. Unfortunately, both abuse and neglect can have a devastating impact on both the mental and physical health of victims. You should immediately report any suspected incidents of abuse or neglect and when necessary, contact an attorney who understands nursing home abuse and elder mistreatment cases.

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