June 9, 2019
Nursing Home Lawyer
The Georgia Council on Aging reports that 1 in 10 older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Since most cases of elder abuse are never reported, however, official statistics fail to capture the full scope of the problem. As Georgia’s population continues to age, the problem will only be heightened.
Younger family members can help prevent or stop the abuse of their elders while helping elderly victims get the justice they deserve. That process starts by learning to recognize evidence that elderly parents, grandparents, or other relatives are being abused.
Defining Elder Abuse
Elder abuse is broadly defined as any knowing, intentional, or negligent act that causes harm to a vulnerable adult. Adults are vulnerable when, because of the infirmities of aging, they must depend on others to help them meet their basic needs.
Elder abuse generally falls into one or more specific categories. Certain warning signs are characteristic of each category of abuse. By watching for those signs, family members can help abuse victims get the help they need.
Physical Abuse of Elders
Physical abuse involves the infliction of physical pain or injury. Slapping and pinching are examples of physical abuse, as is tying the victim to a chair.
Physical abuse is often inflicted out of frustration. Family members who act as caregivers may decide to “punish” an elderly family member for failing to control a bladder or for engaging in behavior that the abuser regards as overly demanding.
Professional caregivers, including nursing home aides, also engage in acts of abuse out of frustration. They might also inflict pain on elderly patients as a means of controlling them. Regardless of the motivation, it is a violation of Georgia law to inflict deliberate and unnecessary pain on an elderly victim.
Warning signs of physical abuse may include unexplained bruising and other suspicious injuries. Even an injury that is explained as accidental should be regarded as suspicious if the explanation seems unlikely or if it becomes part of a pattern of injuries.
Sexual Abuse of Elders
Victims of sexual abuse often suffer from dementia or other conditions that make it difficult for them to report the abuse when it occurs. Sexual abuse is typically inflicted by caregivers, institutional staff members, and other institutional residents who are unrelated to the victim. Warning signs include bruising around the breasts or genitals and a sudden desire to withdraw from contact with others.
Neglect of Elders
Neglect occurs when seniors do not get the care they need. Malnutrition and dehydration are the consequences of failing to give seniors adequate food and water. Neglecting to move elderly patients who are confined to bed can cause painful bedsores and dangerous infections.
Inadequate staffing at nursing homes can cause nurses to overlook symptoms of serious health problems until it is too late to treat them. Staffing problems also lead to aides injuring patients by trying to perform tasks alone — like lifting a patient from a bed to a wheelchair — that should be performed by two aides.
Unfortunately, patient neglect may not be obvious until a family member is injured. Since nursing homes are not always honest about their staffing levels, reading reviews is one way to choose a home that has a reputation for providing high-quality care.
Financial Abuse of Elders
Financial abuse can be committed by strangers who commit fraud, often soliciting credit card numbers from lonely elderly victims by telephone. It can also be committed by family members who have access to an elderly relative’s assets, or by caretakers who forge signatures on checks or transfer funds from an elderly victim’s online account.
Financial abuse might not be discovered until the victim starts receiving overdraft notices or credit card bills for purchases the victim did not make. Regular review of an elderly relative’s financial records is the best way to detect financial abuse.
If you have concerns about your elderly loved one, consult with a nursing home lawyer about your situation and legal options.