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Physical Abuse of Elders: What You Need to Know

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Our elderly loved ones are very important to us. We want only the best for their senior years. At a certain point, it can become apparent that our loved ones need help with their day-to-day activities. They might become forgetful or have health issues that make it necessary for them to no longer live alone. Whatever the situation, we work hard to discover the right place for them, whether with family or in a care facility, where they will be comfortable, safe and well cared for. Unfortunately, there are often unforeseen dangers that can come from any number of situations, including from individuals who we deeply trust with our loved one’s care. The horrifying result can be the physical abuse of our elders.

Care Options for Seniors

When presented with the situation where our loved one needs care from others, we are presented with a number of alternatives. The three most common situations are assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and in-home care.

Assisted Living Facilities

Assisted living facilities are becoming an increasingly popular option for many seniors. This option is attractive for many seniors who value having most of their independence in the form of a private suite with their own choice of furnishings, meals served restaurant-style, opportunities for socializing with other seniors, and the care they require for their various daily life activities that might not be easy for them anymore. Assisted living facilities can offer varying degrees of care, with some even specializing in the more intensive needs of Alzheimer’s care. This popular option is widely available as it seems that new assisted living centers pop up regularly. 

Nursing Homes

If your loved one requires round-the-clock medical care and supervision, a traditional nursing home can be an option. Most nursing homes will allow some level of personalization in their rooms. These are considered long-term-care facilities that will have medical amenities that include round-the-clock nursing staff, physical and occupational therapy, and regular doctor visits. Nursing homes are a good option for those who clearly need more than just a little care. For example, your loved one’s physician might insist on this option if your loved one is still recuperating from a long hospitalization but is not quite ready to return to their homes due to continued treatment needs. 

In-Home Care Options 

The most comfortable option for many seniors is to have the care they need in the home they love. With in-home care, the caregiver can either be someone you hire from an agency or it can be a relative who agrees to move into the home. The obvious benefit of in-home care options is that your loved one gets to remain in their own home. Caregivers who are hired in can have varying degrees of medical experience, including full nursing degrees.

Group Home

This option is becoming more popular with some. In a group home setting, your loved one will have their own room, and share a caregiver with their fellow residents. This option can be a good one if your loved one has mental health issues that make them more comfortable in a smaller environment. Their caregivers typically have training as certified nursing assistants who can monitor their medical needs, make sure they receive their medication, and assist with the various daily living activities that your loved one can no longer do on their own.

Your Loved One Might Not Be Safe

While all these options look good on paper, there is a growing problem of elder abuse that comes from the people you trust to care for your loved one. It is important that you stay in close contact with your loved ones who are in one of these care situations. There are significant risks involved when your loved one requires care from others. The more care that is needed, the more vulnerable that person is to falling victim to physical abuse. For those in assisted living, nursing homes, and group homes, physical abuse can come from staff members or other residents. Sometimes your loved one can be vulnerable to abuse even when they are living in their own home with caregivers brought in. While many cases of abuse are reported by the elders themselves, there are too many times that incidents go unreported due to a fear of reprisal from the abuser. 

Signs and Symptoms of Physical Abuse

The federal government defines abuse as “the willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or punishment with resulting physical harm, pain, or mental anguish.”

When you visit your loved one and something seems wrong, you will want to keep on the watch for signs of abuse. Some of these signs are more subtle than others. Signs that your loved one could be the victim of physical abuse can include:

  • Physical injuries such as broken bones, sprains, black eyes, burns, cuts and scrapes, bruises, welts, or open wounds.
  • Signs of restraint such as rope marks.
  • Patient is lacking physical hygiene.
  • Over or under-medicated.
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Sudden changes in behavior such as losing interest in things that they have always loved to do.
  • Becomes withdrawn
  • Shows signs of having been punished.
  • Hazardous or unsafe conditions surrounding them.
  • Lacks medical aids or medical aids are broken, such as eyeglasses, or dentures.
  • Patient falls a lot.
  • Caregivers refuse to allow visitors.

Risk Factors for Physical Abuse

Some individuals are at a higher risk for being abused than others. The risk factors that can make your loved one more vulnerable to abuse include:

  • Gender: Women are more likely to be abused than men. The National Council on Elder Abuse (NCEA) reports that two-thirds of the victims of elder abuse are women.
  • Socioeconomic: Those who have to rely on Medicaid may be limited to care facility options and have to settle for lower quality facilities that do not screen their employees as well as the more elite facilities.
  • History of Trauma: If a patient has been the victim of a traumatic event or abuse before, they are more likely to be abused again.
  • Health Status: Patients who have poor physical or mental health are at higher risk of becoming the victims of abuse The NCEA estimates that  as many as 50% of those with dementia are victims of abuse or neglect.

What’s Next

Physical  elder abuse is a crime that is under-reported. The first step is to report your suspicions of abuse to facility management, if in a nursing home or assisted living facility. If the caregiver comes from an agency, the agency needs to be notified. In all cases, the City of Los Angeles Adult Protective Services (APS) needs to be notified.

If you are unsure of where to begin, you should seek legal council. The Law Offices of Todd M. Friedman, P.C. has experience helping families identify elder physical abuse. They can help put an end to the abuse of your loved one and make sure that the abusers are held accountable for their actions and that the victims of the abuse have justice restored.  Contact us today to receive a legal consultation for your loved one who is being physically abused. 

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