We previously wrote in this space about two very important events to help raise awareness for adequate care for patients in nursing homes and long term care facilities. These two events were the Nursing Home Staffing Public Awareness Campaign, as well as the marking of the calendar for the Residents’ Rights Month, which is a month dedicated to awareness for safety and care in nursing homes, and has expanded and grown over time thus demonstrating the importance of awareness for these issues.
Negligence and abuse are issues that afflict nursing homes, and it has taken concerted efforts on the part of state and federal authorities to weed out these horrible practices and push facilities to hire competent and caring staffers, and to fix how they operate on the whole to ensure patients receive the requisite care. Now, in Illinois, Governor Pat Quinn has proclaimed the month of July as Elder Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month. This coincides with the ongoing annual campaign by the Illinois Department on Aging. While this proclamation designates a month dedicated to a serious issue that spans beyond just nursing homes, it is of course important to nursing homes.
Combating the Problem
Elder Abuse Awareness focuses on negligence or willful acts against vulnerable adults who are aged 60 years or older. As reported, each year approximately 5% of elderly adults are victims of abuse in the state of Illinois, amounting to approximately 100,000 individuals, which is an incredibly high number. Just as is seen in nursing homes and care facilities, the elderly can suffer from dehydration, malnutrition and poor hygiene as a result of neglect by caretakers. They can also suffer from injuries like cuts, burns or broken bones as a result of accidents and falls because they are not properly supervised, and these injuries are compounded where they are not treated or are not properly treated. Elderly people can also suffer psychological trauma as a result of physical injuries and abuse, as well as verbal and emotional abuse.
The elderly can often be taken advantage of financially, as their bank account information is stolen, credit cards, cash or valuable goods are stolen, and identities may be stolen. The Department of Aging has established a 24 hour hotline for people to report neglect and abuse as parts of its efforts to combat this problem. The Department has been trying to raise awareness for a decade now, and in 2013 received an astounding 11,756 reports of elder abuse. While this is disturbing, a positive takeaway is that the Department has created a channel for reporting abuse so that it can be dealt with by authorities.
Those concerned with elder abuse and neglect, whether at a nursing home or anywhere else, should be sure to report any known or suspected incidents. This can range from physical abuse to verbal abuse, as well as financial exploitation and anything in between. Public campaigns like the Residents’ Rights Month and Elder Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month, among others, are all incredibly important to the national consciousness when it comes to the care of the elderly, and how to go about addressing deficiencies in that care.
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