With a significant number of Americans aging, a large percentage of these individuals suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, a baffling and devastating disease. It begins with memory loss and progresses into the unraveling of cognition, leads to the person’s loss of her identity and eventually her ability to take care of herself. It is a degenerative disease that attacks the brain’s neurons, and eventually leads to death. Alzheimer’s, despite popular opinion, is not a natural death. It is painful, arduous, and grotesque, especially for those who must standby and bear witness, i.e., the loved ones who must watch over those who suffer from it and eventually die from it.
Not surprisingly, the majority of people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease must be placed in nursing care facilities, as their deteriorating mental condition – as well as physical condition – make it too difficult for families (unless they are fortunate enough to have in-house staff) to tend to their needs. Unfortunately, these patients are oftentimes the targets of abuse and suffer from neglect, too. The consequences of abuse and neglect are serious and even life-threatening, and often result in family members taking necessary measures via litigation.
While all elderly patients are subject to abuse, regardless of their state of mind – especially when staff members are poorly trained, aren’t paid well, and lack professionalism – those with Alzheimer’s disease are even more vulnerable, because they have difficulty speaking up for themselves and reporting it. In fact, in 2010 a study out of University of California, Irvine, found that close to half of Alzheimer’s patients were abused. That is a chilling figure. And that is precisely why family members who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease must make sure to visit the nursing care facility on a regular basis to observe care, get to know staff members, and keep an eye out for possible signs of abuse. The issue of abuse is one of many problems, however. Neglect is another one, as these patients pose a problem of fleeing the facility if left to their own devices. Indeed, a patient with Alzheimer’s disease is always a flight risk, and when an event like this occurs, the results can be deadly.