Members of the Baby Boomer generation are rapidly reaching retirement age, and the growing population of elderly citizens in America has resulted in exponential growth in the number of Americans who live in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Unfortunately there has been a corresponding growth in another statistic: senior citizens who have suffered neglect and abuse at the hands of staff members of nursing homes and other residential facilities.
Our country currently has approximately 15,700 nursing homes that between them account for more than 1.3 million residents. This number increases daily, and will continue to do so for many years into the future as the generation born between 1946 and 1964 grows older. Studies have shown that an estimated 10% of the population of the nursing home and assisted living facility residents have experienced some kind of nursing home abuse over the last year. A study by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services discovered that over 90% of nursing home and assisted living facilities in this country has had at least one failure to meet the standards set out by Federal laws during the survey period; on average facilities were found to have around six. More worrying than that, in a federal study from 2010 over half of the facility staff that were surveyed admitted to having abused a resident at their location within the last year. Unfortunately nursing home abuse is a common problem, and it is likely that it will affect you or one of your family or friends at some point in your lifetime.
Types of Elder Abuse
There are a variety of different forms that elder abuse may take. The most common types are physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. While these typically leave obvious signs of the abuse, financial exploitation and passive neglect also are common problems that face seniors. These kinds of abuse are significantly more difficult for both family members and regulatory agency inspectors to identify. If you have a family member in a nursing home it is important to be vigilant for signs that may signify abuse and neglect. Many times confusion or shame keeps the elderly from reporting that they are being abused to the appropriate authorities or even their families. This becomes even more important if the facility resident suffers from dementia or other cognitive illnesses: almost half of all people 85 years old or older have developed Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, and within that group nearly half have been abused or mistreated by their caretakers.
What are the Warning Signs?
Generally the warning signs of nursing home abuse involve sudden changes in behavior or physical or mental condition, though they can vary depending on the type of abuse involved. Obvious physical symptoms such as bruises, abrasions, broken bones, unusual weight loss, bedsores, and poor hygiene are common. Psychological signs can be less obvious but just as telling: unusual depression, sudden changes in alertness or mood, or withdrawal from the resident’s normal activities. Finally, any unexplained changes in the resident’s financial situation should also raise concerns.
Additional resources for those with a family member or friend in a nursing home or assisted living facility are available through The National Center on Elder Abuse, the United States Administration on Aging, the Nursing Home Abuse Guide, and a number of other sources.
West Virginia Nursing Home Abuse Experts
If you feel that a loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility has been injured due to the abuse of staff members, contact a lawyer at Colombo Law to discuss your options today.