Unfortunately, elder abuse can come about as a result of multiple preventable issues. According to the National Academy of Sciences Panel to Review Risk and Prevalence of Elder Abuse and Neglect, the leading cause of abuse in health care facilities is the presence of stressful work conditions, usually related to staff shortages, staff members who are “burned out” or lacking energy and motivation, and inadequate training for staff members. This abuse can cause unquantifiable emotional damage to elderly individuals who, unable to care for themselves, are dependent on the very individuals who are causing the abuse.
If you believe that a member of your family has suffered from elder abuse, our attorneys may be able to help you and your family.
Types of Elder Abuse
An elderly individual can be abused, harassed, or exploited in a variety of ways. Abuse can cause physical, emotional, or financial damage to the afflicted individual, and some forms of abuse are much less conspicuous than others. It is important to monitor the health, well-being, and general demeanor of family members in care facilities regularly. If an elderly family member has suffered one or more types of abuse while at an assisted-living facility, contact our office immediately. We will aggressively pursue both criminal and civil actions against those liable to protect the rights of the abused.
Physical abuse can involve a multitude of actions, including striking, hitting, shoving, pushing, shaking, slapping, pinching, beating, force-feeding, and burning. It can also include actions such as the inappropriate and negligent administration of medication or physically restraining an individual. Many physical injuries leave conspicuous bruising, swelling, welts, and open wounds.
If you notice any of these on a family member, you should immediately notify the administrator of the care facility. If you continue to have suspicions about the origin of any bruises, bleeding, or swelling, contact local law enforcement agencies and a nursing home abuse attorney right away. Because elderly individuals are typically at much greater risk than middle-aged individuals for serious injury from physical abuse due to the inherent effects of aging, it is very important to stop abuse as soon as possible.
Any type of non-consensual sexual act between an individual and an elderly patient is considered sexual abuse. This definition includes sexual activity that involves an elderly patient who is unable to give or refuse consent. Typical sexual acts include unwanted touching, coerced nudity, exposure to other elderly patients, the taking of sexually explicit photographs, and all types of sexual assault and battery, such as rape and sodomy. If you believe that an elderly family member has been sexually abused, contact a law enforcement officer immediately. Signs of sexual abuse may include torn or stained clothing, bruises around the breasts or genitals, and, claims of rape.
Emotional And Psychological Abuse
Emotional abuse can cause significant trauma to an individual, resulting in undue stress, unnatural behavior, and a tendency to become withdrawn and uncommunicative. Emotional and psychological abuse can include both verbal and non-verbal forms of harassment such as berating, demeaning, verbally assaulting, humiliating, or threatening an elderly patient, as well as treating the patient like a child, isolating the patient from family and friends, or not responding to the patient’s requests.
Neglect and Abandonment
Care providers who fail to attend to a patient’s needs or live up to their obligations and responsibilities can be held liable for neglect. An elderly patient may be considered a victim of neglect if any of the elements of care that are essential to leading a healthy, high-quality life are withheld from him or her. These may include such basics as food, water, shelter, hygiene, and clothing, as well as medicine, a safe and healthy living environment, and personal comfort.
Many elderly patients are exploited financially because they are not fully aware or capable of maintaining control of their financial assets. Examples of financial or material exploitation can include a care provider cashing an elderly patient’s checks, forging the signature of an elderly patient, coercing an elderly patient to sign checks or documents that benefit the perpetrator financially, and stealing an elderly patient’s money or possessions. Individuals who are given power of attorney or guardianship over an elderly patient are also capable of exploiting that power for their financial benefit.
If you believe that a family member has been exploited financially, you should seek legal counsel as soon as possible. Sudden changes in bank account balances, missing cash or checks, additional names being included on bank signature cards or accounts, and unexplained changes in wills may all be signs of financial exploitation.
Signs of Elder Abuse
Because many elderly patients see family members on an infrequent basis, it can be very difficult to detect signs of abuse. If you believe that a family member has become a victim of elder or nursing home abuse, it is important to be alert to any symptoms or signs that may indicate wrongdoing.
Physical injuries often result in bruising, swelling, bleeding, pressure marks, abrasions, and scarring. In some extreme cases, there may even be broken bones or significant burn marks on the patient. Additionally, bruising around the breasts or genitals of a patient, as well as unexplained venereal diseases or bleeding, may result from sexual abuse.
Emotional distress can result in depression, a withdrawal from social activities and friends, and an unusual alertness or anxiety when around care providers or other patients. Financial abuse or exploitation may cause unusual changes in a bank account balance or to the distribution of assets outlined in a will.
Signs such as improper hygiene, untreated injuries, and unsafe living conditions often indicate that a patient is being neglected. If you believe that a family member has been exploited while living in a nursing home, contact us today.