Nursing Home Abuse
The National Center on Elder Abuse found that more than 30 million elderly people experience some form of abuse every year. This includes physical, sexual, emotional and financial abuse. Though some forms of elderly abuse take place in the home, a large number of abuse victims live in retirement and nursing homes. The families and loved ones of those victims can file charges against those who committed abuse and seek compensation from the facilities too.
Physical abuse is what many people think of when thinking about violence. This type of injury occurs when an orderly, doctor, nurse or someone else working in the home takes physical action against a patient. This includes hitting an individual with an open or closed hand, restraining and preventing that person from moving or forcing a patient to eat, drink or take medications without his or her permission and against the patient’s wishes.
Though only a small percentage of elderly abuse cases involve sexual assault, those incidents can traumatize the old. While many people think that sexual assault includes intercourse, it refers to any unwanted sexual contact or sexual activity. This might include an orderly who kisses or engages in oral copulation with a patient, a doctor who inappropriately rubs against a patient or a nurse who forces a patient to touch her genitals. Elderly residents suffering from dementia and other brain conditions cannot give consent, which makes any sexual activity a form of abuse.
Mental abuse goes by some other names, including emotional abuse and psychological abuse. Flinching and shying away from another person are two clear signs of mental abuse. Harassing a patient is one way that workers inflict this type of abuse. An orderly might scream or shout at a patient, or another worker might deliberately humiliate that person in front of others. Family members and friends who visit the facility may also be guilty of emotional abuse.
One of the fastest growing types of elder abuse in the United States is financial abuse. Though this often involves a family member, these cases can also involve caretakers. Caretakers working with elderly patients can steal money from bank accounts, take and write checks and abuse the power they have. There are also scam artists who target people living in facilities for elderly patients. They run fake sweepstakes, offer magazine subscriptions and sell other low-priced goods, but they take the money without giving the victims anything back.
Television reports often cover neglect when discussing abuse cases in nursing homes. Nursing homes must provide residents with a clean and place safe to live. Denying patients access to food and water, not bathing and cleaning patients or cutting off their access to bathrooms are all forms of neglect. Neglect can also occur when a facility does not provide residents with access to medical care.
What Families and Victims Can Do
Family members of elder abuse victims and the victims themselves can turn to Adult Protective Services for help. Every state has an APS department designed to help those of an advanced age. APS will investigate the claims and demand that the facility changes the way it operates. Victims and families can also turn to lawyers for support. They can band together with other victims to file a suit that will present evidence from all cases or file an individual lawsuit. Lawyers will ensure that the facility admits it didn’t help its patients and that those patients have the chance to recover in a safe place.