Surprising Facts About Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes

Did you know elder abuse is defined as the mistreatment or harming of an older person? It can be physical, emotional or sexual in nature, and includes neglect and financial exploitation. It is also illegal, although it impacts millions of American seniors every year.

One of the best ways to combat any problem, is to increase public education. One of our goals is to raise awareness about the scourge of elder abuse. We share this commitment with other professionals in communities across the country who are observing World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15th. As an annual event, it was first organized by the United Nations in 2006.

One particular area of interest is skilled nursing homes. Millions of older adults have been abused or neglected in nursing homes, while only a fraction of all incidents are believed to be reported. A major contributing factor is believed to be understaffing. A lack of staff members can endanger vulnerable residents by causing elevated stress levels in overworked employees, which can increase the risk of neglect and abusive behavior.

Bedsores are telltale signs of neglect, while welts, bruises and unexplained injuries are often evidence of physical mistreatment. Emotional abuse may not leave visible marks, but it has devastating effects on aging seniors and can include verbal assaults, intimidation and threats.

Further, news media investigations have identified stunning incidents of sexual violations. One report found 226 nursing homes were cited for failing to protect residents from sexual assaults between 2010 and 2015. Of those cases, about 60 percent of the penalties resulted in fines, while only 16 facilities were cut off from Medicare and Medicaid funding. 

In addition, nursing home residents frequently suffer from adverse drug events. It is estimated that about 70 percent of these mistakes are preventable, with many being life-threatening and even fatal. While these facts may lead to well-founded concerns, it is important to recognize that a small number of nursing homes are responsible for the majority of reported abuse incidents.

Still, vigilance is key. We encourage you to learn how to report elder abuse in California. Do not wait to get the elder care help you or an aging loved one needs now or in the future.

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