The aging experience is often a humbling one. No matter their status or accomplishments, older individuals can face the reality of new health issues and increased care needs. Nursing homes, charged with delivering a high level of care daily, provide an essential service to seniors and their families. However, nursing home abuse is a reality that many seniors experience but often goes unreported.
Abuse at the hands of someone whose role should be that of caregiver does more than physical harm. The emotional toll seniors experience throughout the cycle of abuse can go on for years before that abuse is revealed. Family members, friends, and other providers should be aware of the emotional impacts seniors suffer and how to report abuse.
Reliance on nursing home care can lead to feelings of helplessness
The transition from independent living to a nursing home or assisted living facility is one that requires humility. Once fiercely independent older adults must hand over responsibility for many daily tasks they’d recently managed alone.
The reality of elder care arrangements often results in seniors’ reliance on their caregivers. In healthy situations, this arrangement helps ensure seniors receive the attentive medical, emotional, and financial care they need. However, the risk of elder abuse can increase when one’s care is in the hands of another.
Seniors may experience sadness or depression when the impacts of age reduce their independence. Feelings of helplessness are normal, but they can worsen when a resident is being abused by a would-be caregiver. Victims may hesitate to report abuse to a Nursing home abuse lawyer For fear the abusers could retaliate.
Observe your loved one’s behavior while in the presence of their caregivers to monitor their behaviors. If a senior changes their demeanor, becomes tense, or is overly grateful to a caregiver, it may be a warning sign. Speak with your loved one about their interactions, ensuring they feel safe and that you believe them. If you learn that abuse may be a factor, document everything and report it immediately.
Memory care residents may question their experiences
Seniors in memory care face challenges each day that make them question themselves. Self-doubt and even embarrassment are commonplace, especially when you consider the generational norms of many elders.
Members of the “silent generation,” those born between 1928 and 1945, were taught to be seen and not heard. As adults, this habit manifests as not wanting to be a burden, make a fuss, or to ask for help. While independence and tenacity are valuable traits, there’s no place for them when the issue of abuse appears.
If your loved one is a memory care patient, they may be at an increased risk of abuse. The devastating effects of Alzheimer’s make it so their recollection of the most recent events is often hazy. When abuse is occurring, seniors in memory care may question the legitimacy of their diminishing memory. Add in their tendency to keep problems out of conversations, and abuse can persist without leaving a trace.
Just as you would monitor your loved one’s behavior in the presence of caregivers, learn about silent indicators. Physical markers of abuse like bruises are a common occurrence, while others are less obvious. Financial abuse can leave traces that a thorough review of banking habits, cash reserves, and behaviors can reveal. Assess medical documents to ensure your loved one is receiving their medications, treatments, and therapy as prescribed.
Loneliness may increase seniors’ tolerance for abuse
The u.S. Surgeon general recently called to attention the Nation’s loneliness epidemic, and the public is paying attention. The impact of the pandemic exacerbated an already existing problem of loneliness in the u.S. Individuals of all ages are showing increased health risks, mental health challenges, and even premature death.
Loneliness has long been an issue for the elderly, especially as physical mobility makes once enjoyed activities more difficult. In nursing homes, individuals may have new opportunities to connect through social activities and daily gatherings like meal times. However, for individuals who require in-room-only care, members of their care team may be their sole source of socialization.
This situation can create an environment where abuse can easily go undetected. Seniors facing abuse from their only visitors may be hesitant to report it out of fear that they’ll be ostracized. They may also worry that a claim of abuse could result in even more abuse or keep others from visiting.
Loved ones can support those in elder care by integrating socialization and connection opportunities into their care plan. Devise a layered plan that combines facility support through the community activities coordinator with the efforts of family and friends. Make a point to visit your loved one and encourage others in your circle to do the same. Cards and emails are important, too, as they can provide the individual a visual reminder of how much they’re loved. Your support can give them the confidence to share concerns about abuse before they escalate.
Breaking down barriers that prevent reporting of nursing home abuse
The first step toward improving timely reporting of nursing home abuse is assuring seniors that the abuse is not their fault. Victims of nursing home abuse aren’t weak, and the reality of their situation doesn’t indicate they’ve done anything wrong.
Elevate conversations with your loved ones and caregivers to make this narrative commonplace. Share facts about what elder abuse is and how to identify it. Provide guidance on how to report abuse and to whom. With an open dialogue about the risks and indicators, you can protect your loved ones from the emotional toll of nursing home abuse.