Sadly, elder abuse and neglect occurs at an alarming rate in the United States and studies show it is on the increase. With the elderly population in the U.S. growing rapidly, there is a good chance you will one day be faced with concerns that an elderly loved one is the victim of abuse or neglect, prompting the question " What should I do if I suspect nursing home abuse or neglect? "
Reliable statistics relating to the number of elderly individuals who are abused and neglected each year in the U.S. are difficult to come by for several reasons. First, reporting practices for elderly abuse vary widely and are often lacking in sufficient information. Second, a uniform definition for "elder abuse" does not exist, meaning that many instances of abuse and neglect are not reported as such even when they are reported to authorities. Finally, victims often remain silent because they fear reprisals from an abuser or simply because they are ashamed to be a victim. The New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study found that for every case known to programs and agencies, 24 were unknown.
Statistics that are available, however, estimate that a conservative estimate for the number of elderly who are victimized each year is one in ten. That estimate does not include financial victimization. Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are commonly where abuse and neglect of the elderly occurs. Common signs to look for if you are concerned about an elderly loved one in a nursing home setting include:
- Evidence of restraints on the wrists and ankles
- Excessive and unexplained bruising and/or injuries
- Weight loss
- Worsening of medical conditions without explanation
- Deteriorating personal hygiene
- Mood swings
- Drugged appearance without explanation
- Anger or hostility
If you suspect abuse or neglect is occurring at a nursing home you should contact the authorities as well as an elder law attorney right away. In addition, you may wish to do the following to attempt to confirm your suspicions:
- Talk to your loved one. Explain your suspicions and assure your loved one that there will be no negative repercussions for talking to you and that there is no reason to be ashamed.
- Drop in the facility unannounced. At night after normal visiting hours is often a good time to see how things really run.
- Try and talk to other residents.
- Try and talk to staff away from the facility.
- Consult with your loved one's primary care physician to ascertain whether or not there are any reasonable medical explanations for things you have noticed and/or to get the doctor's opinion about changes you have noticed in your loved one.
If you suspect abuse or neglect, the odds are good that you are correct. Often, a loved one's instincts are correct when it comes to abuse of the elderly. Contact the experienced attorneys at SIMON & GILMAN, LLP right away to discuss your legal options if you believe a loved one is suffering nursing home abuse or neglect.