Elder Abuse is Reaching Epidemic Proportions

Elder abuse is a terrible crime and one that is happening more often than ever before. While many cases are reported, it remains an under-reported crime. It is believed by authorities and senior citizen organizations that many more cases of elder abuse go unreported by the victim. Even if they have family who visit, they are often unaware of the abuse or negligence.

There are often newspaper accounts of the physical, emotional and financial abuse or negligence on the part of the caretaker or nursing home staff. In some cases the adult child is responsible, but all too often it is the nursing home staff who is entrusted to care for the older adult’s physical, emotional, mental and medical needs.

The most current statistics for nursing home abuse and neglect include:

  • One out of every three nursing homes across the country have been cited for some type of nursing home abuse and other infractions that are related to care of the elderly.
  • Approximately one-quarter of nursing home aides that are prosecuted for abusing patients have a previous criminal record. It is estimated that 5 percent of nursing home aides nationwide have a criminal record.
  • Approximately only 16 percent of elder abuse cases are reported, according to information from the National Elder Abuse Incident Study.
  • One of the other statistics is that one in every ten people over the age of 65 will spend some of their lives in an adult care facility.

The National Elder Abuse Incident Study shows:

  • Approximately 20 percent of reported abuse cases involve emotional abuse of older adults.
  • About 16 percent involves physical abuse.
  • Approximately 12 percent are caretaker neglect.
  • Approximately 3 percent involve sexual abuse.

Financial elder abuse was not included in this part of the study, and this is another form of abuse that not only can go on in the older adult’s home, but in the nursing home facility. The nursing home is obligated by law to provide a certain standard of care for the residents and they are responsible for the training and action of their staff. When they do not provide the proper physical, emotional, medical and daily living care, they can be held responsible.

In one such instance in Georgia, the nursing home owner did not provide the proper standard of care, including upkeep on the nursing home to provide proper living standards for residents. As a result, not only did residents and their families complain, but vendors to the facility also complained and the FBI became involved. Rather than provide the proper care and living standards for residents, the owner of the facility placed most of the Medicare and Medicaid payments in his own pocket. This is a form of elder abuse and resulted in the residents living in unsanitary and unsafe conditions.

Upon investigation by the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services officials, the residents were found to be malnourished and dehydrated. In court, the judge determined the services provided in the nursing home were worthless, and, for the first time, a nursing home owner was federally convicted. While not all nursing homes are in this condition, elder abuse does go on in these facilities and all too often it is not reported. The nursing home may have the appearance of being clean and the residents well cared for, yet at the same time, there may be residents that are being physically or mentally abused.

Abuse may not be clearly seen by vendors or even family members, and so it often goes unreported. It is rare that the victim of the abuse or neglect will report it on their own. They are usually too frightened and ashamed to report this type of treatment. Many elderly nursing home residents do not have family that visits regularly, which means they have no actual avenue to report the abuse or neglect. Even when this type of treatment is localized to one or several residents, rather than the whole facility, the staff and owner can be held legally responsible.

Elder abuse and neglect is a serious problem that is growing. If no one held these parties responsible it would become a much larger problem for the older adults who are residents of these facilities and the families that trust the nursing home to care for their loved ones.


Author: nursingethicsnetwork