Underreporting of elder abuse is a long-documented problem. Because of the fact that many of the victims are not able to speak up for themselves and have few advocates, many instances of neglect and mistreatment are never made public. Many of those affected die without anyone ever being fully aware of the fact that they suffered in silence.
Those focused on correcting the underreporting problem often suggest that the best approach is to enact safeguards so that those who come into contact with seniors in various ways are trained to identify signs of mistreatment. That may include anyone from at-home therapists and bank tellers to financial advisors and estate planning attorneys.
Also, one of the most common “stop gaps” in that regard are caregivers at hospitals. For example, in many cases a senior will be brought to the hospital for some emergency treatment only for doctors to discover something like serious bedsores on the senior’s body. However, if doctors, nurses, and aides stay silent when they are confronted with signs of elder abuse, the senior may be sent back to a facility only to suffer more abuse.
Failure to Report
According to a report in My Elder Advocate, one hospital on the East Coast seems to have refused to report signs of mistreatment even though such reporting was actually required by law. The story explains how the resident was brought to the facility to have treatment for a urinary tract infection which was caused by the caregivers at his nursing home’s failure to properly clean the equipment. Besides the infection, the senior reportedly suffered from various other medical conditions caused by neglect.
One elder advocate explains how he spoke with a staff members at the hospital and asked the man to report the conditions that the senior patient had developed at the nursing home. However, hospital employee allegedly claimed that he did not have to report anything that did not occur at the hospital itself. A state law actually requires that such signs of abuse or mistreatment be reported. Illinois also has mandatory reporting laws.
The advocate also asked the resident’s doctor to report the abuse, but the doctor also refused. The article explains one obvious reason why that might have occurred: the doctor worked with the resident at both the hospital and nursing home. If the medical professional only reported the problem when the patient was brought to the hospital, then it would raise obvious questions regarding why he did not speak up sooner. As a result of this scenario, the doctor may have found it more secure to simply say nothing at all.
Interestingly, the story notes how this connection between medical teams and nursing homes and hospitals may act as a barrier preventing honest and complete reporting and potential nursing home abuse. By referring patients to one another, both may be able to generate large reimbursements that increase their bottom line. Obviously this potential conflict needs to be guarded against, as the safety and well-being of the seniors should be prioritized at all times.
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