We intend for skilled nursing facilities to be safe places of rest for the elderly when their needs become too great to be met in the home. There, elderly relatives can receive the medical care and companionship that busy working families cannot provide. The trust families put in nursing homes can be violated in shocking and painful ways. For this reason, families must be vigilant about signs of potential abuse. Any suspicions must be investigated carefully.
Who are Elder Abusers?
More often than not, elder abusers are the people who take care of them. They may be nursing homes employees or family members who care for the elderly at home. In nursing homes, inexperienced part-time workers may think nothing of cutting corners at work. What seems like a small oversight to a worker can be a major upset for the elderly patient. Fresh sheets, baths and just a friendly visit for those who are bedridden are vital to the physical emotional health of elderly patients.
In addition, families cannot assume their loved ones are safe simply because another family member looks after their needs. The stress of caring for a patient for long hours with few or no breaks can make anyone snap, especially if the caregiver has no formal training. Too many times, a family member tries too hard to keep the elderly patient at home and out of a nursing home, leading to excessive stress, anxiety and eventual abuse. In such situations, the tragedy is on both sides, with the elder suffering the pain of the abuse and the abuser suffering the guilt of hurting someone he or she loves deeply.
Elder Abusers Convicted
In 2008, a well-publicized case illustrated with shocking horror how severe elderly abuse can be. According to local newspaper, the Albert Lea Tribune, Freeborn County District Judge Steven Schwab sentenced two convicted abusers, Ashton Larson and Brianna Broitzman to 180-day jail sentences. Both were convicted for allegedly spitting on the mouths of the elderly, touching their genitals and poking their breasts. Worse, Larson and Broitzman were released after serving only 42 days of their sentences. Four young women were also charged in the case, but because they are minors, their cases were handled in juvenile court.
Three Ways to Spot Elder Abuse
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, injuries may not be easy to identify, especially if there is no physical abuse. Families must be vigilant to protect their loved ones, and the following can help identify abuse:
- Family members watch for behavioral changes in the elderly and take them seriously, not assuming the changes are due to natural aging or dementia.
- Bruises should not be written off as natural bumps and scraps.
- Question all injuries and behavioral changes, and get help if something seems amiss.
If you suspect elder abuse, alert the authorities immediately and then contact our office. The law imposes time limits for placing claims that can help pay for injuries and the ongoing care your elder loved one needs.