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Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes: Know the Warning Signs

On behalf of Gary Nitsche

Countless people are mistreated or abused by someone entrusted to care for them every day. Many elderly individuals find themselves in this position, and while abuse should never be accepted, many elders are extremely vulnerable and unable to prevent it. As the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age and America's senior population grows, this issue is increasingly important.

Also troubling is that elder abuse is rapidly increasing problem in many states, Delaware included. The National Center for Elder Abuse (NCEA) suggested that as many as 500,000 elderly men and women suffer abuse each year, although many of these incidents go undetected.

Risk Factors and Types of Abuse

According to the NCEA and Helpguide.org, elderly people are at an increased risk of being abused, both mentally and physically, for several reasons:

  • Elders can be socially isolated, thus making abuse difficult to discover
  • Caregivers can be stressed by the burden of caring for an elder and react by lashing out or neglecting the individual
  • Dementia, behavior problems and other conditions raise an elder's risk

These risk factors can lead to many types of elder abuse, the most common being physical and emotional abuse. With physical abuse, a caregiver uses force to threaten or injure, while emotional abuse includes verbal attacks, threats, isolation or the belittling of an elder. However, elder abuse can also include sexual abuse, exploitation or neglect.

Warning Signs of Elder Abuse

Families who have an elderly person living in a nursing home should be aware of the warning signs for elder abuse, neglect or exploitation. The NCEA lists the most common which are:

  • Unexplained bruises, falls, burns or abrasions
  • Withdrawing from normal activities and dramatic shifts in daily behavior
  • Sudden changes in an elders financial situation
  • Poor hygiene, sudden and unexplained weight loss, bedsores or unattended medical needs

Awareness of these factors can prevent more seniors from being one of the nearly 500,000 elders abused, neglected or exploited every year.

It is everyone's responsibility to help ensure vulnerable elders are properly cared for, but families often cannot do this on their own. If someone suspects elder abuse - especially if any of the above warning signs are apparent - they should call an experienced nursing home injury attorney immediately.

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