Referred to as the “Greying of America,” the older population in the United States has grown at a heretofore unprecedented rate in recent years. Sadly, along with the increase in the elderly population has come an increase in abuse of the elderly in the U.S. Elder abuse takes many forms and can occur in a variety of settings, including nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Understandably, knowing this may make you concerned if you have a parent who is currently in a nursing home or who may need long-term care in the near future. The good news is that there are a number of signs to look for that may indicate your parent is the victim of nursing home abuse.
Elder Abuse Facts and Figures
Elder abuse is not something new. Unfortunately, the elderly have always been easy prey for unscrupulous individuals and criminals who prey on the vulnerable. What is new is society’s awareness of the extent of the problem. Precise figures relating to abuse of the elderly remain difficult to come by for two reasons. First, because laws relating to elder abuse are relatively new, reporting requirements are inconsistent among the states, making it difficult to come up with accurate data. Second, and even more important, victims of elder abuse frequently don’t report the abuse because they are embarrassed or because they are dependent on the abuser. Despite those obstacles, some facts and figures do exist relating to abuse of the elderly, including the following:
- As many as 1 in 10 elderly individuals have suffered some type of elder abuse.
- About two million elderly individuals are abused or neglected each year
- There are approximately 5 million elderly victims of financial abuse each year.
- For every one incident of abuse reported to authorities, five more go unreported.
Nursing Home Abuse
As we age, the likelihood of needing long-term care increases dramatically. Although many nursing homes take excellent care of the residents, some are virtual breeding grounds for abuse and neglect. Unfortunately, the victims of this abuse and neglect are often unable, or unwilling, to speak out against the abusers. Nursing home abuse can take many forms, including, but not limited to the following:
- Slapping, pushing, or kicking a victim
- Physically restraining a resident without good cause
- Failing to properly bath a resident
- Name calling, cussing, belittling
- Sexual molestation
- Failing to provide medication as directed
- Not providing proper diet
- Sequestering a resident in his/her room
- Isolating a victim by refusing to allow contact with loved ones
Signs that Your Parent Might Be a Victim of Nursing Home Abuse
If you have a parent in a nursing home, it was likely not an easy decision to make in the first place to put him/her there. The idea that your parent is now suffering abuse or neglect is certainly a worrisome thought. You should look for some concrete signs that you parent is the victim of nursing home abuse, including:
- Unkempt appearance
- Bruises without an acceptable explanation
- Marks on wrists or ankles (from restraints)
- Repeated “accidents” that cause injury
- Noticeable weight loss
- Refusal to talk to you
- Erratic behavior
- Anti-social behavior
What Can You Do If You Suspect Abuse and/or Neglect?
If you suspect that your parent is being abused and/or neglected at the nursing home where he/she resides there are some steps you should take immediately, including, but not limited to:
- Talk to your parent. Sit down and have a talk with your parent. Let him/her know that you suspect something is going on and then go on to explain how common elder abuse is and how important it is to speak out if you are a victim.
- Be direct. This is not the time to be polite. Take a look around your parent’s room and then tour the entire place looking for signs of abuse and/or neglect.
- Make visits at various times of day or evening.
- Question staff. Confront – in a calm and civil manner – any staff whom you suspect might be responsible and ask them about your concerns. If you get a chance, however, ask the staff for other patients
- Speak to administration. Take your concerns and suspicions straight to the administration. Ask to speak to the facility manager, supervisor, or other individual in charge.
- File a complaint. File a formal complaint at the facility. You may also file one with the Illinois Department of Public Health.
- Consult an elder law attorney. Consult with an experienced Illinois elder law attorney right away to discuss your legal options.
If you are concerned that your parent is the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect in the State of Illinois, contact the experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.