As reported by the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Center on Elder Abuse, the 2010 Census revealed that nearly 40.3 million people – or roughly 13% of the entire U.S. population – are over the age of 65. As the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, it is expected that Americans over the age of 65 will comprise 20% of the total population by 2050. This growing population will likely strain existing health care providers and lead to an increase in incidents of elder mistreatment.
What is Elder Mistreatment?
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) defines elder mistreatment – also known as elder abuse or neglect – as “intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm (whether or not harm is intended) to a vulnerable elder by a caregiver or other person who stands in a trust relationship to the elder.” This definition includes harm caused by a caregiver’s failure to “satisfy the elder’s basic needs or to protect the elder from harm” and financial exploitation.
Elder mistreatment occurs in residential and commercial settings. While nearly 90% of abusers are family members, elder abuse is unfortunately common in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. According to the HHS’s National Center on Elder Abuse, 44% of 2,000 nursing home residents interviewed said they had been abused, and 95% said they had been neglected or seen another resident neglected. The HHS also found that, as of 2001, 90% of nursing homes were unable to give adequate care to residents because of understaffing.
Certain risk factors are associated with elder mistreatment. Women and individuals with disabilities are more likely to be abused than men and people without disabilities. The Center on Elder Abuse found that 33% of adult women with disabilities reported an experience with interpersonal violence, as compared to 21% of institutionalized adult women without disabilities. Finally, other vulnerabilities, such as dementia, also make a person more prone to elder abuse and mistreatment.
Signs of Elder Mistreatment
It is often hard to recognize elder mistreatment. If a loved one is in a long-term care facility or nursing home, it may be difficult to visit often. The elderly may be reluctant to self-report abuse or mistreatment from fear of retaliation, or a lack of physical and/or cognitive ability to do so. Likewise, many people are unaware of the signs of elder mistreatment. In an effort to educate the public, the HHS’s Administration on Aging has compiled a list of elder abuse warning signs. Among the warning signs listed, the HHS includes:
-Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, or burns -Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, or unusual depression -Sudden changes in financial situations -Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, or unusual weight loss -Strained or tense relationships, or frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person
If You Suspect Elder Abuse, Contact an Illinois Lawyer
If you have noticed any signs of elder abuse in a nursing home or long-term care facility, or if you suspect that your loved one may be a victim of neglect, it is critical that you contact a skilled nursing home abuse and neglect attorney. It is also important to remember that risk factors such as gender and disability may make your loved one more prone to abuse. Our skilled lawyers have extensive experience in litigating all matters related to nursing abuse and neglect in Illinois. Contact us today and together we can put an end to the abuse.
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