Elder abuse is a pervasive problem that often goes unchecked. In some nursing homes across our country, little to nothing is done to protect the livelihoods of the elderly, who do not always have the ability to advocate for themselves. It is a substantiating reason why nursing homes get a bad rep in the community of aging adults. Elder abuse is the act, or the lack of appropriate action, of bringing harm or causing distress to an older person in which the relationship expectation is assumed respect, trust and care. This violates their human rights and has a damaging effect on their mental and physical health. Physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, financial and material abuse, including abandonment and neglect, are types of elder abuse cases taking place at nursing homes by staff and/or visitors. Many cases are swept under the rug by nursing homes or are unreported due to fear and shame. A community of, more or less, harmless people are left in grave circumstances with bad people under the supervision of negligent institutions. Lack of awareness can no longer be the excuse when in dire times people are dying ahead of their time at the hands of elder abuse. Statistics Elder abuse is an important public health issue because of the impending rise of the aging population in America. The 2018 census reported 52.4 million adults are 65 years and older. The United States Census Bureau is anticipating an increase to 80 million by 2040, due to the aging baby boom generation. Each year, 5 million elders are abused in nursing homes and in the community. Which is largely underestimated because only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported. A national survey of nursing home staff showed 36% of nursing home residents witnessed at least Overall, 1 in 10 Americans ages 60 and older have experienced some form of elder abuse. The National Center on Elder Abuse classified 11.6% reported psychological abuse, 6.8% for both financial exploitation and sexual abuse, 4.2% were neglected and 2.6% were physical abused. The elderly living in nursing homes are defenseless due to physical and/or cognitive difficulties, and the onset of specific illnesses makes them more vulnerable to manipulation and harm. With one-third of nursing home patients on antipsychotic drugs, there is the ongoing issue of overmedication or the improper distribution of medication. It is estimated 50% of dementia patients experience some form of abuse or neglect. At the rate of which the senior population is growing, it is of grave importance to bring awareness to elder abuse for it to end. How to identify elder abuse? Many forms of elder abuse are hard to identify, specifically psychological abuse which is the least obvious. Complaints of elder abuse are usually called out by the victims or their families. The most common three complaints include delayed responses to calls for assistance, lack of social interaction with other residents and/or family members and poor quality of food. Considering the common complaints, it may be easiest to identify a solution to the problem. There are approximately 15,600 nursing homes in the United States with a capacity from 500 to 1300 beds.Unfortunately, 90% of nursing homes are understaffed and one nurse’s aide may care for up to 30 people at a time. The recommended ratio is one nurse’s aide to three residents during a meal and 1:6 during non-meal periods. The probable cause for complaint and elder abuse is that our nursing homes are inadequately staffed. This leaves a lot of room for error and poor training. Elder abuse stems from neglect and failure to provide personalized care to individual nursing home residents. Neglect may not always be intentional when caring for more than the recommended number of residents, but in too many cases it is fatal. Abusive acts demonstrated by caregivers include physically restraining residents, depriving them of their dignity and choice, providing insufficient care and/or emotional neglect or abuse. For instance, leaving an elder person in soiled clothes is deprivation of dignity. Allowing a resident to develop pressure sores is an example of providing insufficient care. As horrendous as it may sound, caregivers have even gone as far as to over- and under- medicate or withhold medication from elderly persons. This criminal behavior defies the ethics of any licensed or certified caregiver and institution. Still cases are swept under the rug as a significant amount of one of our most vulnerable populations are abused. Elder abuse can lead to physical injuries or psychological trauma. Even the most minor injuries can create serious or permanent damage. In a 13-year follow up study, conducted by the Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology at Cornell University Medical College, found that victims are twice as likely to die prematurely than those who do not fall victim to elder abuse. How to protect our elders? In the month of June, we bring awareness to elder abuse by observing World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The day was created in 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and declared a worldly cause by the United Nations in 2011. Recently our Attorney General Chris Carr encouraged all Georgians to learn the signs and how to report elder abuse. In February 2021, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation assembled a new task force to prevent, detect and protect at-risk adults from abuse, neglect and exploitation. The Crimes Against Disabled Adults and Elderly (CADE) combine efforts with the Forensic Special Initiatives Unit (FSIU) and the Division of Aging Services (DAS) in hopes to increase the arrests of perpetrators each year. The collaborative effort of this new task force is designated to organize the education, outreach and training programs for Georgia’s primary and secondary responders, including law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, EMS, employees of financial institutions, regulatory/protective/social/victim service agencies, key healthcare providers, coroners, medical examiners, and other professions who respond to the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of at-risk adults. We hardly desire to see cases reach the desks of our personal injury lawyers and litigators, but it is in any victim’s best interest to file a lawsuit against perpetrators. In nursing home settlements, victims receive compensation for medical bills, damages due to pain and suffering, and any other necessary expenses relating to the incident(s). We support all our aging clients in the decision to take their case to trial or settle out of court for immediate remediation and compensation. The dollar amount varies for settling elder abuse cases out of court, but on average victims in nursing home settlements have received up to $406,000 in the United States. Compensation for damages vary based on each specific case due to jurisdiction, evidence, injury or wrongful death, and previous similar cases. Cambre & Associates can evaluate your case if it still falls within two years of the statute of limitations. Protect yourself and/or your loved ones today.
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