As medical technology increases people’s life expectancy, the elderly population is skyrocketing. By the year 2050, 20% of the US population will be over the age of 65 for the first time. While Americans may be living longer, many seniors have health issues that prevent them from caring for themselves. This means a surge in the number of nursing homes and an increase in people hired to take care of geriatric residents.
We want to think that nursing home employees are all compassionate, caring, and wholly dedicated to the well-being of their patients. Many undoubtedly are. But others are indifferent and a few actively seek out jobs where they can prey on vulnerable seniors. Throw in long hours, low pay and understaffed facilities, and you have a recipe for all types of neglect and abuse.
Nobody truly knows how many elders are abused, exploited or neglected every year. The National Council on Aging estimates that one in 10 Americans over 60 have been victims of some type of elder abuse. Abuse usually happens in secret by people who appear trustworthy. Those suffering from dementia are especially vulnerable to common types of elder abuse.
Types of Abuse
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging, elder abuse refers to “any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.” Every state has laws to help prevent elder abuse. Sadly, it continues in the following forms:
- Physical Elder Abuse—physically hurting a senior, or employing physical or pharmaceutical restraints.
- Sexual Abuse—any type of non-consensual sexual contact.
- Financial Exploitation—stealing or misusing a senior’s money, property, or other assets.
- Neglect—failing to provide food, shelter, clothing, health care or other vital needs of seniors, whether intentionally or not.
- Emotional Abuse—causing mental suffering, distress or anguish to seniors. This could be done verbally or nonverbally and include humiliation, intimidation or threats.
- Abandonment—deserting a senior who is unable to care for him or herself.
Signs of Abuse
Signs of abuse can be subtle. Elderly skin bruises easily, so an occasional bruise doesn’t prove abuse. But if you have a loved one in a nursing home, keep your eyes open. Document any possible signs you see. It you notice a suspicious number of signs or start to see patterns, take action immediately.
Here are a few common signs of elder abuse and neglect:
- Bed sores (pressure ulcers)
- Broken bones
- Cuts and bruises
- Torn clothing
- Withdrawing, refusing to communicate
- Sudden changes in weight
- Unexplained injuries, such as broken bones
- Not wanting to speak when staff members are present
- Dirty sheets, towels, and room
- Sudden behavioral changes
- Heavy medication, especially sedatives
- Frequent illnesses that aren’t reported to the family or doctor
- Missing money
What To Do
There are many ways to prevent elder abuse, but if you suspect that your loved one is being abused or neglected, take action now. The first and most important step is to ensure the safety of your loved one. If the environment is unsafe or dangerous, remove them from the situation immediately.
Next, report the incident. In Texas you should contact Texas Health and Human Services (THHS) at 1-800-458-9858 to file an official report. You can also contact the National Center on Elder Abuse at 1-800-677-1116. You can also reach out to your local ombudsman who can send someone to the facility to check on your loved one.
Finally, consult an attorney. An experienced nursing home abuse lawyer will be able to evaluate the situation and help you figure out what next steps to take. If you are even considering pursuing a lawsuit, the sooner you consult a nursing home abuse attorney, the better. Each lawsuit has statutes of limitations (or a certain amount of time) that they must be filed by. The more time you can give the nursing home attorney to review the information, prepare the needed documents, and file the lawsuit, the better the outcome.
We Can Help
At Powers Taylor, we are fight for those without a voice. When nursing homes break the trust you put in them, we are here to fight for you and your loved one. If you’re in this heartbreaking situation, don’t hesitate. Pick up the phone and call us immediately. Our experienced and compassionate team is waiting to help.