A new initiative led by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that aims to build a national elder abuse database uncovered over 700,000 reported incidents of abuse and neglect in 2017. However, despite this large volume of elder abuse and neglect investigations identified by state-based agencies, experts say the true scope of the problem is far larger.
Elder neglect and nursing home abuse can be difficult to detect. Victims may fear the repercussions of reporting their mistreatment or may be unable to self-report due to disability, dementia, or other cognitive impairment. Caregivers and family members must be aware of the signs of nursing home abuse and take action to protect at-risk nursing home residents.
Know the Signs of Elder Abuse
Nursing home abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional/psychological, or financial in nature. Residents are also at risk of neglect due to nursing home staffing issues, administrative policy, and healthcare billing abuse. Some of the more common signs of nursing home abuse include:
- Malnutrition or dehydration
- Infected, recurring, or unexplained wounds and lacerations
- Sudden weight loss
- Bedsores, sacral ulcers, or sepsis
- Broken bones or head injuries resulting from falls, particularly if those falls are frequent or happen while the resident is unsupervised
- Increased anxiety, withdrawal, fear, or other psychological changes
- Poor personal hygiene
- Dirty public areas, poor lighting, unsafe mobility aids, inadequate nursing home maintenance, and other environmental hazards
Over 700,000 Elder Abuse Cases Reported in 2017 (Study)
Of the 713,000 cases reported to and investigated by state adult protective services:
- 142,000 involved seniors who lived alone but were too mentally or physically incapacitated to care for themselves, in many cases resulting in nursing home care
- 93,000 involved abuse or neglect by others responsible for the seniors’ care
- Approximately 71,000 cases involved adults under 50 years of age with disabilities
Agencies involved in the compilation of data for this federal government initiative acknowledge that these figures still understate the scope of the problem.
Alice Page, an adult protective services and systems developer with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, told USA TODAY,
“The elder abuse data is not complete. It’s correct in terms of what’s reported, but there are so many cases that aren’t reported. We’re way behind in elder abuse reporting than, for example, in child abuse reporting. It’s just a different system…and so we’re sort of playing catch up.”
Elder Abuse: A Silent Issue
“We have often referred to elder abuse as a silent issue,” added Edwin Walker, deputy assistant secretary for aging at the Department of Health and Human Services. “In the mid-1970s, the federal government got in the business of charting out guidelines and parameters for addressing child abuse. But the federal government never did that for adult protective services or elder abuse.”
It does not have to be this way. If you suspect that you or a loved one are experiencing elder abuse, call 1-866-548-9636 to learn more about your legal rights, how you can stop the mistreatment, what compensation may be available, and how a nursing home abuse lawyer may be able to help.