The percentage of the population over the age of 65 continues to grow in North Carolina and across the country. Both the sheer size of the baby boom generation and increased life expectancy from medical innovations are contributing to the growth. As a result, the size of the U.S. population made up of seniors is expected to jump from 12 percent in 2004, to 21 percent by 2050 according to the Census Bureau.
With this growth come safety concerns about increased nursing home abuse and neglect. Seniors and their families should therefore become more informed about how to watch out for signs of trouble. As the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed.
Elder abuse or neglect refers to intentional or negligent acts that lead to harm. Abuse is often caused by either a relative or trusted caregiver, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA). They include physical, emotional or psychological, financial and sexual forms of abuse.
Physical abuse is always a serious concern. In a nursing facility, it may result from increased demands on staff. As the numbers of residents are only projected to increase, it is likely these complaints will continue to rise until facilities provide a better resident-to-worker ratio.
Active involvement in an elderly person’s life is crucial to avoiding and stopping abuse in an institutional setting. Family members and other loved ones should watch for warning signs that include:
If any of the above are noticed, file a report with an adult protective services agency or local law enforcement. Also continue communicating with the suspected victim. Abuse often goes unreported because the victim is uncomfortable discussing an incident of mistreatment.
Elder abuse or neglect is completely unjustifiable. Even if a care facility claims it is not responsible for the actions of “rogue” staff members, the facility itself may still be liable for those actions.
This is known as vicarious liability. It can result, for example by an inadequate hiring process, a failure to train properly, or from previous complaints.
If an allegation is upheld, the victim can be entitled to compensation for medical and rehabilitation costs, as well as pain and suffering and possible punitive damage awards. A punitive damage award is intended to punish the wrongdoer. These awards may be made if allegations are not properly addressed after reports of abuse.