Millions of Aged Americans are Experiencing Abuse
News stories about care home elderly abuse are concerningly common, and the National Council on Aging reports that over 5,000,000 people are affected by elderly abuse every year. While care homes and malpractice play a significant role in this, most elderly abuse is perpetrated by relatives, around 66%, with coping mechanisms playing a significant role.
Of the abuse reported, half is related to those with serious mental health conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s who are subsequently neglected by family or mistreated by care home employees who either aren’t trained properly or are overwhelmed by the amount of work they are required to perform due to a severe understaffing of nurses.
That being said, no amount of understaffing is an excuse for the abuse or mistreatment of an elder under a duty of care by a nursing home.
Common Signs of Elderly Abuse
In many cases, family and friends aren’t aware of any abuse occurring as it might be well hidden or they can’t see the symptoms. However, signs such as sudden weight loss, recurring bed sores, more falls than usual, and medication errors are common among inadequate care homes. One or more of these, especially when repeated, could indicate some form of abuse.
Of course, not all abuse is physical and visible, and because of the diminished capacity of the elderly, mental abuse can be difficult to spot. Some common signs of psychological abuse could include your elderly relative not making eye contact, appearing withdrawn, having low self-esteem or depression, and self-harm.
How to Report Elderly Abuse
If you suspect that your elderly friend, neighbor, or relative is being abused in any way, whether physical or mental, by anybody at a care home or even another relative, then you should report your concerns as soon as possible. However, you should first report your concerns to the care home as anyone who works with elders is mandated by law to report abuse. The abuse might be at the hands of one person rather than systemic in the establishment itself.
Should you have concerns that the care home itself is putting someone in danger, you can report your suspicions to the relevant adult protection services trained to deal with social crimes such as those against the elderly. If you feel it is warranted, then you can, of course, call the police.
Elderly Abuse Prevention Methods
While you can’t be with your elderly loved ones 24 hours per day, especially if they are in a care home, you can help with preventing abuse against them. Next to becoming a caregiver, some methods are simple: calling in on them randomly to catch someone who shouldn’t be there, taking phone calls for them to avoid malicious salespeople, and supervising residential nurse visits.
Financial abuse is one of the most common complaints among elderly care home residents. Their (sometimes) diminished capacity means that they are easy targets as missing finances can be written off as memory issues. However, you could help an elderly friend or relative by documenting all of their income against expenses to highlight any financial misconduct.