As the population of the United States ages, the demands placed on the medical system to care for the elderly are becoming overwhelming. There are approximately thirty-four million people over the age of 65. Nearly one in twenty will require some form of assisted living. Unfortunately, our senior citizens are becoming victims of intentional abuse and neglect within nursing homes and assisted living facilities. While it is difficult enough to place a family member in a home, it is even more difficult to see that family member suffer under the care of an abusive, overburdened, and under trained nursing home staff.
The National Center for Elder Abuse and numerous nursing home abuse articles report that neglect of our senior citizens' basic needs is the number one type of elder abuse. Physical abuse by caregivers ranks as the second most common form of elder mistreatment. Almost one million senior citizens are victimized each year.
When abuse or neglect occurs in nursing homes and other assisted living facilities, it is often referred to as "institutional abuse." Institutional abuse can come in many forms, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Physical abuse can be caused by hitting, unreasonably restraining, inappropriately drugging, refusing to transport, burning, and almost any other type of abusive physical contact imaginable.
General neglect of seniors is the most prevalent type of abuse. Neglect is the result of a lack of interest in the well being of the senior citizen. While physical, sexual, and mental abuse are the result of intentional and purposeful acts of the staff, neglect may occur when a caregiver simply does not care. Caregivers neglect their duty when they fail to provide some necessary element for the resident's survival. Such neglect can include anything from failing to provide food & water to not paying the heating bill.
Neglect often leads to health disorders such as dehydration and malnutrition, both of which can be fatal if left untreated. Elopement, when a resident successfully leaves a nursing home unsupervised, and wandering, when a resident moves aimlessly inside a care facility without supervision, often occur because of neglect.
Unbelievably, sexual abuse of the elderly is not unheard of in assisted living settings. The abuse can be at the hands of other residents or the staff. Some typical types of sexual abuse include sexual battery (including vaginal and anal intercourse without consent), forced nudity, and inappropriate photography.
Mental abuse of the elderly, while perhaps not as visible as physical abuse, can be just as, if not more so debilitating. One must be vigilant to uncover mental abuse, as the consequences of such abuse may not be immediately apparent. Mental abuse includes, but is not limited to, verbally harassing or intimidating the resident, intentionally not speaking to the resident, and isolating the resident from friends and family.