Today, an estimated 5.5 million Americans have been diagnosed with the tragic memory, thinking and behavior disease, Alzheimer’s – one of the most common forms of dementia. As these people age, 75 percent of them will be admitted to a nursing home by their 80th birthday and fully dependent on someone else to care for them. Unfortunately, there are too many times when these patients are abused. In fact, the Alzheimer’s Association reports there are approximately 1 to 2 million cases of elder abuse incidences each year for dementia residents living in community settings such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Most adult protective services officials and long-term care ombudsman will say the true incident rates are likely to be much higher though since this abuse can come in many different ways as defined by the Alzheimer’s Association:
- Physical: causing physical pain or injury
- Emotional: verbal assaults, threats of abuse, harassment and intimidation
- Neglect: failure to provide necessities, including food, clothing, shelter, medical care or a safe environment
- Confinement: restraining or isolating the person
- Financial: the misuse or withholding of the person’s financial resources (money, property) to his or her disadvantage or the advantage of someone else
- Sexual abuse: touching, fondling or any sexual activity when the person is unable to understand, unwilling to consent, threatened or physically forced
- Willful deprivation: willfully denying the person medication, medical care, food, shelter or physical assistance, and thereby exposing the individual with Alzheimer’s to the risk of physical, mental or emotional harm
- Self-neglect: Due to lack of insight and cognitive changes, a person with Alzheimer’s may be unable to safely and adequately provide for day-to-day needs, and may be at risk for harm, falls, wandering and/or malnutrition.
Direct-care workers, such as nurse aides and personal care attendants, provide most of the daily support to older adults battling dementia. They are responsible for bathing, feeding, medication administration, bathroom needs, dressing, housekeeping, food preparation and other activities, jobs most of these workers feel are demanding and sometimes difficult. In addition, most of these workers may not have received the training or have the standards of education necessary to provide dementia care, a persistent challenge for administrators responsible for this special environment.
New Dementia Care Recommendations May Lessen Occurrence of Elder Abuse
In January 2017, the Alzheimer’s Association published new recommendations “meant to shape dementia care practice at nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other long-term care and community care providers.” The hope is that providers in both community-based and residential care will be able to detect, diagnose and medically manage dementia patients better. If a facility were to adopt these recommendations, it may lead to lessening the chaotic load put on the direct-care workers at risk for abusing a resident because of the stress and frustration known to provoke these awful acts. These new recommendations, based on current evidence and best practices, were created with an approach to person-centered care and will provide tips for this list of focused areas:
- Detection and diagnosis
- Assessment and care planning
- Medical management
- Information, education and support
- Ongoing care for behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia, and support for activities of daily living
- Supportive and therapeutic environments
- Transitions and coordination of services
Other supporting suggestions include: assessment and care planning; information, education and support; ongoing care for behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia; support of activities in daily living; staffing; supportive and therapeutic environments; transitions and coordination of services. The Alzheimer’s Association has a plan to officially share these recommendations with policymakers in hopes to author better standards of care for dementia patients living in long-term care facilities.
Dementia and Alzheimer Patients Are More Vulnerable
Sadly, caregiver professionals are typically the abusers and take advantage of these cognitively impaired older people. The abuse can be hard for people with dementia to recognize on their own. Dementia patients can also easily become paranoid and delusional, making it difficult for family or friends to believe abuse claims. If this is the case for your loved one, know you can protect them from future abuse by knowing the warning signs and acting quickly to question and demand answers from administrative staff.
Know the Signs of Elder Abuse
The Alzheimer’s Association has collected this list of abuse warning signs:
- Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect or mistreatment.
- Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness or unexpected depression may be an indicator of emotional abuse.
- Bruises around the breasts or genital area may be a sign of sexual abuse.
- Sudden changes in financial situations may be the result of exploitation.
- Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene and unusual weight loss may indicate neglect.
- Belittling, threats or other uses of power by spouses, family members or others may indicate verbal or emotional abuse.
- Strained or tense relationships and frequent arguments between the caregiver and person with disease may be a sign of abuse. Abuse may originate from either a caregiver or a person with dementia. A person with dementia may exhibit more aggressive behaviors as the disease progresses and cognitive function and ability to reason decline. No one should live in threat of harm or danger to themselves or others.
While just one of these signs does not necessarily indicate abuse, you still may have a feeling that something is not right. The important thing to understand is that you do not need to have the proof or evidence right away— it is up to the professionals to investigate suspicions. Speak up and get help immediately.
Respected Elder Abuse and Nursing Home Negligence Attorneys
Levin & Perconti has become one of the most widely-known and respected nursing home abuse and neglect law firms in Illinois, achieving multiple million dollar verdicts and settlements. If a loved one has sustained serious injuries resulting from abuse at a nursing home, they may be entitled to compensation. There is a time limit to file a case in Illinois, so please contact us now for a free consultation with one of our skilled nursing home attorneys.