If you have a parent who is in a nursing home, or is otherwise dependent on caregivers, you probably worry about his/her physical and mental well-being. If you are not the one providing all of your parent’s care, it is completely understandable that you would be concerned about the care that is being provided by someone else, particularly when we hear stories about elder abuse on a regular basis in the news. What should you do if you start to suspect that your parent is the victim of elder abuse? An elder law attorney at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP discusses steps to take if you suspect elder abuse.
How Common Is Elder Abuse?
It may seem as though you hear a new story about elder abuse on a daily basis, but how common is it really? Sadly, elder abuse does occur far more often than most people realize – and in recent years the number of elder abuse reports has increased dramatically as the older population in the U.S. has grown to historic proportions. Consider the following facts and figures:
- Experts believe more than one in 10 seniors will be the victim of elder abuse.
- Each year, there are over 5 million instances of financial exploitation with a senior victim.
- For every instance of elder abuse reports, as many as 14 go unreported.
- 1 in 20 older adults indicate some form of perceived financial mistreatment occurring in the recent past.
- Only 30% of victims of elder sexual abuse report it to authorities.
- In almost 60% of elder abuse and neglect incidents, the perpetrator is a family member. Two thirds of perpetrators are adult children or spouses.
- More than 40% of nursing home residents have reported abuse, and more than 90% report that they or another resident of the facility have been neglected.
- Research from 2010 indicates that up to half of all nursing home attendants have admitted abusing or neglecting elderly patients.
- The most recent studies indicate that 7-10 percent of the elderly suffered from at least one episode of abuse within the past year.
What Can I Do If I Suspect Elder Abuse?
One of the most important things to remember is that if you feel that something is not right with your parent, it probably isn’t. Whether there are numerous signs of abuse, or you just feel that something seems amiss, listen to your instincts. Then take the following steps:
- Try to talk to your parent about your concerns. One of the biggest problems with preventing and/or punishing elder abuse is that the victims are frequently too ashamed or embarrassed to speak out. Encourage your parent to confide in you and assure your parent that you will do something about the abuse.
- Speak to the administration or management. If your parent is at a nursing home or is receiving care through a home health agency, ask to speak to a supervisor or administrator right away. Sometimes this can be extremely productive while other times the results are disappointing. You will not know until you try.
- Call a family meeting. If the caregiver in question is a family member, call a family meeting. This can be a very delicate situation. Many family members mean well but are overwhelmed and ill-equipped as a caregiver. Do they need support in their role? Is it something that can be corrected as a family? Most importantly, the abuse or neglect must stop.
- File a report with the local police department. In most jurisdictions, elder abuse is a crime. You should file an official report even if you believe the police will not follow up. As the issue of elder abuse becomes a more well-known problem, law enforcement agencies are getting better at recognizing the signs and apprehending perpetrators. Give them a chance to do the right thing.
- Petition for guardianship over your parent. If you do not already have guardianship, you may need to become your parent’s guardian so that you can rapidly remove your parent from a dangerous situation now and in the future.
- Consult with an elder law attorney. Elder abuse is a criminal offense as well as potentially providing the basis for a civil lawsuit. Talk to an elder law attorney about your legal options.
Contact an Elder Law Attorney
For additional information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about nursing home abuse, contact an experienced elder law attorney at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.