The prevalence of elder abuse is difficult to determine because the nature of the crime leaves it largely unreported.
“It is estimated that for every one case of elder abuse, neglect, exploitation, or self-neglect reported to authorities, about five go unreported.” (National Elder Abuse Incidence Study. 1998. Washington, DC: National Center on Elder Abuse at American Public Human Services Association).
Elder abuse and neglect can occur in an institutional setting (including a nursing home or assisted living facility) or in the domestic setting (their home or the home of a loved one). There are several forms of elder abuse. According to La 4 Seniors (a web based community providing support and information to the elderly), these forms include:
- Physical abuse includes sexual assault such as rape or fondling, and other acts such as beating, slapping, shoving or kicking of an elderly person.
- Psychological abuse includes verbal harassment, threats, or other forms of intimidation directed towards an elder, such as the threat of placing him or her in a nursing home out of punishment.
- Fiduciary abuse includes the stealing or misuse of property or other assets belonging to an elder, such as his or her house, bank account, pension funds or Social Security payments.
- Neglect is defined as the failure to provide an elder with basic necessities such as adequate food, shelter, medical treatment or personal care.
Signs of Elder Abuse
Physical Abuse Indicators:
- Bruises and discoloration on inner arm/thigh, thumb/finger prints, choke marks, presence of old and new bruises in the same place, different colored bruises, and suspicious shapes caused by coins, cords or belts used as restraints.
- Scratches, cuts, pinch marks, cigarette burns, rope burns, and fractures.
- Physical injury on head, scalp or face, e.g. black eye.
- Poor hygiene, e.g., unkempt appearance, stained or torn clothes.
- Dirty or uncut finger or toe-nails.
- Inadequate dental hygiene.
Behavioral Abuse Indicators:
- Implausible Stories
Relational Abuse Indicators:
- The elder is not given the opportunity to speak for him/herself.
- Family or care providers restrict activity, outside contacts.
- Family or care providers do not allow the elder to be alone with anyone.
“Families turn to nursing homes to give the elderly the care and attention they need, but a congressional report… says 1,600 US nursing homes – nearly one-third – have been cited for abuse” www.cbsnews.
Nursing homes have a legal responsibility to report any misconduct, negligence or abuse to authorities. By failing to do so, they are putting residents at risk and allowing criminals to get away with causing our loved ones to suffer abuse, neglect, and or financial strife.
Nursing home abuse is often the result of frustrated, overworked employees who take out their aggression on innocent residents. The abuse affects the victims physically, emotionally, or sexually. Victims may have bruises, broken bones or bedsores and feel hopeless, depressed and isolated. Abusers may harm their residents through neglect or mistreatment by depriving them food or water, using unnecessary sedatives or leaving wounds untreated, causing infection.
When a loved one needs additional attention in the golden years of his or her life, you may decide to place him or her in the care of a nursing home assisted living facility. In doing so, you trust the home or facility to care for its residents and ensure a happy and safe living environment. When this trust is violated through acts of abuse or neglect, the nursing home should be held accountable for the injuries and damage caused by staff.
What To Do If You Are Being Abused
The first and most important step is to ask for help. Tell at least one person. Tell your doctor, a friend, or a family member whom you trust.If the elder is a California resident you can call Adult Protective Services at 888-436-3600 (for domestic abuse) or 800-231-4024 (for institutional) In San Diego you can also contact the Department of Health Services or the DA’s Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-866-279-5489 or the County Hot line at 1-800-510-2020.
You can also call Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116. The person who answers the phone will refer you to a local agency that can help. The Eldercare Locator answers the phone Monday through Friday, 9 am to 8 pm, Eastern Time.
Who Can Bring An Elder Abuse Lawsuit
The following people can bring an action for elder abuse:
- The Abused elder or dependent individual (living);
- The elder’s or dependent individual’s estate or successors-in-interest (if passed away);
- The elder’s or dependent individual’s family members if they witness the abuse;
- The conservator or guardian of an incompetent elder or dependent individual.
What Civil Law Applies?
In California the “Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA)” is the primary focus. Abuse under an EADACPA claim in a civil action includes “physical abuse, neglect, fiduciary abuse, abandonment, isolation or other treatment with resulting physical harm or pain or mental suffering, the deprivation by a care custodian of goods or services which are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering.”
Who Is Protected?
Elder abuse protection applies to any California resident who meets one of the following categories:
- 65 years of age or older; OR
- “Dependent Adults” defined as any person residing in California between the ages of 16 and 64 who has physical or mental limitations that restrict his or her ability to carry out normal activities or to protect his or her rights; OR
- any person between the ages of 18 and 64 who is admitted to a 24-hour healthcare facility, including general acute-care hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, chemical dependency recovery hospitals and skilled nursing and intermediate care facilities.
In other words, while in a hospital of almost any kind, an otherwise young, independent adult is entitled to protection under the California Elder Abuse laws.
What If It Is In Facility Setting?
Elder Abuse in a Nursing Home and or Assisted Living Facility is generally governed by the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act, a set of laws that establish the standards of care for nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The Nursing Home Reform Act was adopted to protect residents from neglect, abuse, and mistreatment and commands that all facilities provide:
- Individual care plans for each resident
- Nursing services
- Social services
- Pharmaceutical and medication services
- Nutritional and dietary services
- In facilities with more than 120 beds, a full-time social worker
- Rehabilitative services
What Rights Do Patients In A Nursing Home Have?
The Nursing Home Reform Act guarantees the following rights to nursing home residents:
- The right to freedom from abuse, mistreatment, and neglect;
- The right to freedom from physical restraints;
- The right to privacy;
- The right to accommodation of medical, physical, psychological, and social needs;
- The right to participate in resident and family groups;
- The right to be treated with dignity;
- The right to exercise self-determination;
- The right to communicate freely;
- The right to participate in the review of one’s care plan, and to be fully informed in advance about any changes in care, treatment, or change of status in the facility;
- The right to voice grievances without discrimination or reprisal.
If any of these rights are violated, the nursing home resident can take action.
If you or a loved one is the victim of Elder Abuse resulting in death or serious injury we would be happy to talk with you. You can call us for a free consultation at 1-888-227-2771.