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nursing home abuse

What Is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is a problem plaguing older Americans. The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that between 1 million and 2 million Americans age 65 and older have been victims of elder abuse. Because many incidents go unreported, the numbers are probably much higher.

Elder abuse is defined as “physical abuse, neglect, financial abuse, abandonment, isolation, abduction,” or other treatment with resulting physical harm or pain or mental suffering, or as the “deprivation by a care custodian of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering.” In Texas, an “elder” is a person who is 65 years of age or older.

Residents Bill Of Rights

An Elderly moving into an assisted living facility or nursing home still has their rights. Federal and state laws guarantee additional rights to nursing home residents and the state law protects the rights of these residents. Residents have all of the following rights:

  • To live in an environment that enhances personal dignity, maintains independence, and encourages self-determination.
  • To participate in activities that meet individual physical, intellectual, social, and spiritual needs.
  • To expect effective channels of communication between residents and staff, and between residents and the administration or provider’s governing body.
  • To receive a clear and complete written contract that establishes the mutual rights and obligations of the resident and the continuing care retirement community.
  • To maintain and establish ties to the local community.
  • To organize and participate freely in the operation of resident associations.

If any of these rights has been violated, it is important that you consult an elder law attorney as soon as possible.

Recognizing Elder Abuse

It is important to know the signs of elder abuse, so you can recognize it if it happens to somebody you know. Most elder abuse falls into four categories—physical abuse, neglect, behavioral abuse, and relational abuse.

Indications of physical abuse include bruises, scratches, unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding, torn or stained and bloody under clothing, and unnecessary physical restraints. You should also be on the lookout for indications of over-medication—for example: drowsiness, cracked lips, drooling or a vacant stare.

Neglect can be spotted by poor hygiene, dirty fingernails, signs of feces or smells of urine, unexplained weight loss, and bedsores.

Especially be on the lookout for neglect when the residence is having staffing problems. Nursing homes with inadequately trained or inexperienced staff and ones with high staff turnover are good candidates for neglect.

Behavioral abuse can be subtle. Indicators include: unwarranted fear, a sense of helplessness, unexplained anger, withdrawal or unwillingness to talk openly, a general confusion, depression, anxiety or agitation and non-responsiveness.

The last category is relational abuse. Be suspicious if the care provider continually speaks for the resident and does not let him speak for himself, or if the care provider restricts the resident’s activities or contacts with the outside, or does not allow the resident to be alone with anyone.

Remember that these lists are merely examples of what to look for. If you see any of these indicators or some other suspicious activity, contact an elder abuse attorney who can help determine the extent of the problem and help you resolve the problem.

What To Do If You Expect Elder Abuse

If you suspect elder abuse, you should waste no time taking action. Report physical abuse immediately to law enforcement by calling “911” or Texas Abuse/Neglect Hotline by calling (1-800-252-5400) or by calling (1-800-458-9858) to report suspected abuse or neglect of an elderly.

After you have reported the suspected abuse, or if you are unsure whether a particular situation is, in fact, elder abuse, you should contact an experienced elder abuse attorney who can answer your questions and protect your rights or those of a loved one.

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