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The “Roots” of Elder Neglect and Mistreatment

Mercury News published an interested editorial last week that seeks to better identify how and why seniors are mistreatment in America. Our Chicago elder neglect attorneys are happy that there seems to be a growing awareness of the plight of many elders in all settings, from nursing homes to those cared for in their own homes. Yet, it is vital that we use this awareness to actually enact changes that make the lives of these individuals better and prevent seniors from being hurt in the future. Part of that includes first being honest about how this elder abuse perpetuates.

The story begins by highlighting the awful case of a elder “care facility” that was recently busted for allowing residents to live in literal squalor. Former residents explain that they were virtually prisoners in the home–some for more than a decade. As we previously discussed, the conditions in the home–found on a residential street in a San Jose neighborhood–were nothing short of appalling. Residents with mental illnesses were left three to a room and not allowed to leave their rooms. Many were physically abused–slapped, punched, kicked–when they acted in any way unpleasant to the caregiver. All told, five people have been arrested on charges of abuse.

Our elder neglect attorneys are immediately hit with the gut reaction: How does something like this happen?

The article argues that it all begins with the tendency to “forget the elderly.” It suggests that there remains a tendency to ignore potential problems, particularly when we are not confronted by them–“out of sight, out of mind.”

In this case, the residents were almost all Vietnamese, most could not speak English, and many had few close relatives providing oversight. As a result, few people asked any questions about these residents. Unfortunately, when there is little to no oversight, many of those charged with caring for elderly, particularly those with mental challenges, have a tendency to cut corners and slip below reasonable care standards. If they get away with it and maximize their profits, the mistreatment often lasts indefinitely.

The story continues by noting a key reason these substandard facilities survive is the tough situation in which many families find themselves when looking for help caring for a loved one. The need is often immediate, and so many do not properly inspect the facility. While locations like the one detailed in this story are not too common, substandard nursing homes and assisted-living facilities abound. Taking time to ask residents about their experiences, tasting the food, examining the quarters, and investigating care records can help avoid sending a relative to a place where they are likely to be mistreated.

In smaller-setting, like the one in this case, there are even fewer people asking questions and so the mistreatment can reach staggering proportions. For example, this facility had 25 dogs running in it. Some residents simply wandered off. The entire debacle only came to light when a relative went to visit a loved one only to be told by the facility that the man didn’t live there. The family called authorities and the slum was uncovered.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Nursing Home Neglect Cited By Whistleblower

Secretary Sebelius Fighting Elder Abuse