We admit the elderly members of our family to a nursing home for the betterment of their health when they suffer from an injury or fall sick. We possess the responsibility of taking care to our elders. But at times we delegate this responsibility to the care givers of nursing homes because of their expertise in it.
However, this may take a turn for the worse as our elders may suffer at the hands of the care givers in the nursing homes. They may abuse them on a physically, mentally or sexually and thus we need to be alert about the occurrences of such incidents and take quick action when signs of the abuse inflicted are relevant.
Following are the various types of abuses our elders are likely to face in a nursing home. Let’s take look at them:
Elderly Physical Abuse
When a nursing home resident suffers any physical pain, injury or impairment due to maltreatment or neglect, it is an example of physical abuse. Physical abuse is one of the most common types of abuse that occurs in nursing homes. Compared to financial and other forms of abuse, physical abuse is very dangerous because it can cause long lasting and life threatening injuries.
If an elderly patient admitted in a nursing home suffers from physical pain, injury, impairment or due to any kind of maltreatment or neglected practice, then it is considered as physical abuse. It must not be ignored and must be reported as soon as possible. Physical abuse can have ever lasting impacts and thus must not be taken lightly.
Here are the signs which the family members or the relatives of the patient can notice to suspect any kind of physical abuse:
- Broken bones or fractures
- Bruising, cuts or welts
- Bed sores
- Frequent infections
- Signs of Dehydration
- Poor physical appearance or lack of cleanliness
- Changes in mental status
- Caregivers that do not want patient to be left alone with others
Physical abuse is easier to spot. If you suspect that a patient is being abused, then here are some things you should look out for as they might lead you to find if an abuse is occurring or has been occurred.
- Medical staff refuses to leave patient alone with family
- Unexplained injuries and recurring injuries
- Physical signs of restraint such as bruises and abrasions
- Malnutrition, dehydration, and sudden weight loss
If you believe that a loved one is suffering from physical abuse in a nursing home, you should immediately talk with the staff and investigate. If you are not satisfied with their answers, you should discharge the patient from the facility and report the case to the authorities.
Elderly Emotional Abuse
It is observed that emotional abuse is the most common kind of abuse which the elderly population faces in nursing homes. It is unfortunate that it is very difficult to diagnose and track an emotional abuse and there are chances that it may go unreported. There is no definite statistics available showing the number of people who have faced emotional abuse as majorly it goes unreported.
Unlike the other types of abuses, emotional abuse doesn’t leave any physical proof on the patient’s body. It leaves an emotional or mental impact on the victim. Thus it stays invisible if it is not experienced firsthand by anyone who is accompanying the elderly patient in the nursing home. Emotional abuse can either be verbal or non verbal.
At times, emotional abuse can also be unintentional. A stressed care giver might lash out on an elderly person inflicting emotional abuse without even realizing. An elderly patient can show emotional anguish in the form of anger, nervousness, fear or sadness. Here are few examples of emotional abuse in nursing homes.
- Yelling, shouting, and screaming
- Threatening and pretending to harm the patient
- Name-calling, insulting, and ridiculing the patient
- Talking to the patient as if he were a child
- Embarrassing the patient in front of others
- Making the patient feel guilty or upset
- Withdrawing affection or being callous and mean
Generally verbal abuse is easy to identify if the person accompanying the elderly patient is nearby. It is characterised by verbal harassment, yelling, or emotional manipulation that the abuser inflicts on the elderly.
But the non-verbal types of abuse are difficult to track unless and until the patient doesn’t speak up. It must be made sure that the emotional abuse in the nursing homes is reported and action is taken to save other elderly patients from it.
Elderly Sexual Abuse
Elder sexual abuse occurs when the elderly patients are sexually assaulted by the care givers without their consent. If the care giver confuses or forces the elderly patient to induce consent then, it is considered as an act of sexual abuse.
No matter how significant is the level of abuse, if the act of touching or anything greater than that is done or even attempted without the elder patient’s consent then, it is considered as an act of sexual abuse. Given below are a few examples:
- Unwanted touching
- Sexual assault and battery
- Sexual photography
- Forced nudity
In major cases the elderly sexual abuse is shown towards patients who tend to look less capable of putting their foot down against the abuser. The patients, who look vulnerable, make the abuser feel confident about escaping the punishment of their act.
Women are generally seen weaker than the men is such cases and are more likely to get abused as they are less capable to protect themselves against a healthy abuser. Age is another factor which provokes the abuser to commit the crime.
People suffering from Alzheimer, dementia and other forms of memory loss disorders are the ones who are widely targeted for the sexual abuse act because of their condition. This is because they are often confused letting the abuser take undue advantage of their condition and exploit them.
Other Risk Factors for Sexual Abuse:
- Social isolation from family and others
- Neglect from caregiver and family
- Physical disability
Sexual abuse unlike emotional abuse is easy to track as it can leave physical marks and other evidences. But to understand the seriousness of it, the family and the relatives of the elderly patient must pay close attention towards the evidences if they happen to find any.
In case of physical/sexual abuse, all the evidences must be duly considered because it may be very difficult to prove the abuse in the court if there is no adequate evidence to support the case.
When nursing facility staff inflicts psychological abuse, it causes elderly residents to feel extreme levels of sadness, fear, and anxiety. Psychological abuse can be more difficult to observe than physical abuse. In addition, some types of psychological abuse are non-verbal and may be very subtle and hard to notice. Often psychological abuse is inflicted at the same time as other forms of abuse that cause a resident to feel helpless and depressed.
Extreme sadness, fear, nervousness, anxiety are the signs which can show the psychological abuse being inflicted upon the elderly patients in a care giving facility. Psychological abuses are very difficult to trace and observe as they can even be considered as the symptoms and effects of an injury, accident or trauma for which the patient is admitted in the nursing home.
Psychological abuse can is also caused when the patient undergoes physical or sexual abuse or any other kind of elderly abuse in nursing home.
Some non-verbal forms of psychological abuse are:
- Ignoring a patient or giving them the silent treatment
- Isolating them from friends or family
- Preventing them from participating in social activities
- Terrorizing or menacing the patient
- Threatening to withhold food or water
Here are some Indicators of psychological abuse which the family members or the relatives of the patient should not ignore:
- Depression and withdrawal
- Refusal to interact or speak with others
- Sudden change in personality or behaviour
- Agitation and abrupt change in mood
- Excessive fear or nervousness
- Unusual behaviour such as sucking, biting, or rocking
- Unexplained STDs and infections
- Bruises in genital areas, thighs, and breasts
- Unexplained vaginal bleeding
- Clothing that has been torn, stained, or covered in blood
- Increased difficulty walking or sitting
- Anxiety or excessive fear around caregiver
As a responsible family member or a relative of the elderly patient, you must not neglect abuse inflicted on your loved ones. You must immediately bring it to the notice of the authorities.
You can always aid assistance of a law firm or a solicitor such as Tollers Personal injury. These people can guide you in making a complaint and claiming a compensation for the abuse. The case is taken to the Care Quality Commission which is an independent regulatory body monitoring health and social care in UK.