It has been widely observed, by the World Health Organization and numerous advocacy groups, that elder abuse is shockingly common in both the U.S. and throughout the world. For example, it is estimated that one out of every 10 older adults who reside in nursing homes and long-term care facilities in the U.S. have suffered abuse within the last year. This number rises to one out of every six within the global community.
The task of protecting the dignity of older adults who reside in community facilities often falls on the shoulders of their loved ones. Why? Even those older adults who remain fully capable of advocating for themselves may feel too embarrassed, ashamed, fearful or unsure of how to name what is happening to them. Older adults who lack the capacity for self-advocacy are often at the total mercy of those around them.
Understanding what to look for
Frustratingly, the most obvious signs of abuse, neglect, and exploitation may also manifest under innocuous circumstances. For example, if your loved one keeps sustaining fall-related injuries, they may be being abused or neglected or they could have medical conditions that are affecting their balance advancing at a rapid rate.
With that said, when it comes to the potential mistreatment of an elder resident, you need to trust your gut. If something seems wrong, it’s time to speak with a professional about discreetly investigating your loved one’s circumstances. From dehydration to bed sores, social withdrawal to odd activity on your loved one’s nursing home bills, “if you see something, say something” or your loved one could continue to suffer due to lack of support.
Understanding how to spot abuse and neglect can help you to advocate for your loved one’s rights and dignity in the event that they are being mistreated. The fact that the law provides remedies for mistreated older adults doesn’t do them much good if they can’t or won’t advocate for themselves and their loved ones aren’t sure what is going on.