Long-term care services for over-65s run the gamut from independent living communities and assisted living facilities, to nursing homes and specialized memory care centers for elders living with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. The wide range of available services is reflected by the different kinds of elder neglect and abuse that take place within different types of communities.
Residents of independent living facilities, for instance, typically require less medical care than those in assisted living facilities. They are more likely to be socially, physically, and mentally independent. Consequently, they have a lower risk of succumbing to manipulative or abusive behavior from caregivers.
Nursing homes (or skilled nursing facilities) provide services including around-the-clock supervision and medical care, three meals a day, physical therapy, and assistance with daily activities. Nursing home residents – some of whom remain on a long term basis – interact frequently with caregivers, putting them at greater risk of experiencing elder abuse. Higher rates of infirmity and dependence make nursing home residents even more vulnerable.
The statistics on nursing home abuse are dismaying, and likely represent only a small fraction of elder abuse incidents. More than 40% of nursing home residents have reported abuse, and 90% say they or another resident of the facility have suffered neglect. Furthermore, for every incident of abuse reported more than 20 go unreported, according to California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. Even in the most serious cases of physical and sexual assault (defined as any incident requiring emergency room treatment), a shocking 28% are not reported to the police.
Nursing Homes and the Contract of Trust
Elders are usually placed in nursing homes by reluctant family members who lack the resources to properly address their needs. By delegating the duty of care to a dedicated facility, families and elders enter into a trust relationship with the institution. When that trust is breached through negligence or criminal intent, the elder and their family members have a right to sue the nursing home to recover damages.
With an aging population, there’s little sign of the nursing home abuse epidemic abating. It’s up to families to remain vigilant for evidence of abusive or negligent practices and, with the help of attorneys who specialize in this field, pursue legal action. Extracting financial recoveries from nursing home operators who put profits above their duty of care is the best way to persuade them to improve their practices and end elder abuse once and for all.
If you have a loved one who you suspect has fallen prey to negligence or abuse, an experienced elder law attorney can advise you on what steps to take next and, if the evidence warrants legal action, guide you through the litigation process. To speak to an elder abuse attorney in Sacramento, call 916-448-6400, or submit a contact form.
For further help with elder care and elder abuse reporting:
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
National Association of Area Agencies on Aging