According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are over 16,000 nursing homes in the United States with over 1.5 million people living in those facilities. Unfortunately, many of those residents also find themselves the victims of abuse and neglect at the hands of nursing home staff.
Just how many elderly people are suffering from abuse and neglect is difficult to gauge. The National Elder Abuse Incidence Report found that a vast majority of cases go unnoticed, with only 16 percent being reported. The National Research Council Panel to Review Risk and Prevalence of Elder Abuse estimated in 2003 that anywhere from one to two million people aged 65 and older had, to that point, been the victim of some form of elder abuse.
Types of Abuse
The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) notes there are six basic types of elder abuse:
Emotional or psychological abuse
The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA) defines physical abuse as any form “physical force or violence that results in bodily injury, pain, or impairment.” This can include hitting, slapping or the inappropriate use of restraints. It can also include forms of sexual abuse or non-consensual sexual contact.
Emotional or psychological abuse happens when a caretaker uses verbal acts to humiliate, insult, intimidate or degrade the elderly person. The NCPEA notes this can also include isolating the elderly person by not speaking to, comforting or communicating with them.
Financial abuse covers a wide range of specific activities but involves the illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property, or assets according to the NCEA. This type of abuse is one of the most under reported crimes because the elderly person is rarely in a position to identify the abuse themselves. Statistics compiled by the NCEA note that only one in 25 cases of elder abuse is reported, meaning that there may be as many as five million elderly victims of financial exploitation each year.
If You Notice Signs of Abuse and Neglect
While many cases go unreported, there are signs that a loved one may be a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect. Though the signs vary with the type of abuse, physical injuries and behavioral changes are key indicators. Physical injuries can include bruises, abrasions, burns or restraint marks. Behavioral changes can be identified by depression and an unexplained withdrawal from daily activities. The NCEA also notes that strained or tense relationships with staff and family members can also be an indicator of mistreatment.
Though there are specific types of abuse, elderly people often experience more than one form of abuse over extended periods of time. If you suspect that your loved one is being abused or neglected by nursing home staff, it is important to discuss your case with an experienced personal injury attorney.