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Updated March 4, 2020
When it’s time to put your elderly loved one in the hands of a nursing home or professional caregiver, you trust that he or she will be treated respectfully and that his or her physical and mental health needs will be met. Unfortunately, that trust is often broken (more commonly than you might think).
Nursing home and elder abuse can take many forms, but a factor remains the same: Elders are particularly vulnerable to abuse, so much so that perpetrators assume that they will be easy targets.
The following qualities of this older population group are considered risk factors that contribute to their vulnerability.
A hallmark of aging is a decline in physical health. Bones are more susceptible to fracture, arteries stiffen and cause the heart to work harder, and hearing and vision loss are common. Frailty is an everyday reality.
This progressive loss of physical health is a risk factor of abuse. Perpetrators can more easily intimidate and control elders with mobility issues or take advantage of a lack of sight or body weight.
High rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease among the elderly put them at greater risk of abuse. In fact, according to the National Council on Aging, nearly half of older adults with dementia were abused or neglected.
These and other forms of mental and cognitive impairment make it difficult for victims to understand or describe the abuse. They are also associated with a decline in memory, reasoning, judgment, and complex motor skills—causing memory loss, confusion, and difficulty problem-solving—all resulting in a more vulnerable population.
Whether self-inflicted or through manipulation or confinement, social isolation is another risk factor of abuse. Elders who are isolated lack social support and are less likely to be aware of or access health and community services.
These risk factors are interconnected: a decline in mental health or communicative abilities can lead to social isolation, further increasing the risk for abuse and neglect.
Elders are often dependent on others for support and assistance. Unpaid relatives, professional in-home caregivers, or long-term care facilities such as nursing homes can create situations where an elder is afraid to ask for help because they are dependent on that care and believe it would be taken away from them.
Additionally, the pressures of caregiving—especially when it comes to efforts by non-professionals like family members—may increase the possibility of abuse.
These risk factors not only make the elder population more vulnerable to abuse; they also make it more likely that older adults will not report abuse. It’s up to you to look for the warning signs of nursing home and elder abuse and take steps to protect victims.
If you suspect that your loved one is being abused or neglected at their nursing home, contact the Indianapolis Nursing Home and Elder Abuse Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you and your family get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.
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