The 2010 Census reported that there are nearly 40.3 million people in the United States who are over the age of 65. This is about 13 percent of the entire population of the United States. As the Baby Boomer generation continues to grow older, it is expected that by 2050 that the number of people in the United States over the age of 65 will reach 20 percent. As this segment of the population continues to grow, it will likely place strain on the existing health care providers, leading to an increase in incidents of mistreatment of the elderly.
Elder mistreatment (elder abuse or neglect) has been defined by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as “intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm (whether or not harm is intended) to a vulnerable elder by a caregiver or other person who stands in a trust relationship to the elder.” This includes harm that is caused by the failure of a caregiver to “satisfy the elder’s basic needs or to protect the elder from harm” and exploitation financially.
Nearly 90 percent of abusers are family members of the elderly person. However, elder abuse is also common in nursing homes and other facilities designed for long-term care. According to HHS’s National Center on Elder Abuse, of the 2,000 nursing home residents interviewed, 44 percent said they had experienced abuse, and 95 percent said they had been neglected or seen others being neglected. Additionally, as of 2001, 90 percent of nursing homes were not able to provide residents with adequate care due to understaffing.
There are certain factors that are associated with mistreatment of the elderly. Those more likely to be abused include women and individuals with disabilities, with men and people without disabilities less likely to be abused. Other conditions that make a person vulnerable, such as dementia, also increase the likelihood of abuse and mistreatment.
Recognizing elder mistreatment is often not easy. Visiting loved ones in a long-term care facility or nursing home is not always easy. Elderly persons may also be reluctant to report the abuse or mistreatment themselves, fearing retaliation, or they may lack the physical and/or cognitive ability to make such a report.
Additionally, many people are not aware of the signs of elder mistreatment. The signs include:
- Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, or burns
- Sudden changes in financial situation
- Unexplained withdrawal from their normal activities, change in alertness, depression
- Strained or tense relationships, or frequent arguments between the elderly person and caregiver
- Bedsores, medical needs going unattended, poor hygiene, or weight loss
If you have noticed signs of elder abuse in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, or suspect that your loved one is a victim of neglect, contact an experienced Kingston, New York nursing home abuse and neglect attorney as soon as possible.
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