Physical and Sexual Abuse
Although accurate statistics are lacking, U.S. government agencies estimate that millions of elderly citizens are the victims of abuse each year. The last major study published by the National Center on Elder Abuse warned that as many as 84% of abuse incidents go unreported.
While the abuse of elderly people – those living at home or while residents of a nursing home – can fall into many categories, physical and sexual abuse are two often-occurring types. Physical abuse involves a forceful attack that leaves the individual injured, impaired and in pain. The inappropriate use of restraint can be included in this category of abuse. Sexual abuse of an individual encompasses any type of sexual contact that occurs without the person’s consent.
The Signs of Elder Abuse
Being able to recognize when something is wrong is the first step you can take to help ensure that your loved one’s safety has not been compromised. Look for these warning signs that abuse might be taking place:
- Obvious marks, such as bruises and scrapes
- Broken bones
- Changes in mood: withdrawal, depression
- Development of bed sores
- Decline in overall quality of care
- Verbal abuse by caregivers
- Adverse changes in relationships with staff
Source: National Center on Elder Abuse
Physical and sexual abuse of frail, elderly nursing home residents is particularly appalling. When such abuse is suspected, the Fort Lauderdale nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys of Freeman Injury Law take immediate action to ensure that the situation is swiftly analyzed and that steps are taken to ensure the safety and well-being of the resident involved.
In one south Florida case, a facility faced legal action for failing to take sufficient measures to protect a resident suffering from cognitive impairment. The unsupervised elderly man died after mistakenly ingesting a cleaning solution. The facility had been warned about lax measures that exposed residents to such dangers as hot appliances and harmful chemical products.
More disturbing news about the potential for physical and sexual abuse of elderly nursing home residents emerged in a South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper article that revealed exemptions in Florida laws that enabled more than 8,000 convicted felons to receive approval to work as caregivers in nursing homes and other facilities serving frail, elderly individuals. One in five of those felons had been arrested again, the paper found.
What factors increase the likelihood that an elderly nursing home patient will be vulnerable to abuse? Certainly, conditions such as Alzheimer’s that affect cognitive ability. Physical weakness that impairs a person’s ability to resist an attacker also contributes to the problem. In nursing homes, those entrusted with providing care may prove untrustworthy. Severely ill patients left unsupervised are at the mercy of those around them.
The West Palm Beach and Port St. Lucie nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers at Freeman Injury Law are dedicated to protecting vulnerable nursing home residents who are unable to take action for themselves. If you suspect that someone you care about is the victim of physical or sexual abuse in a nursing home, call today for a free consultation to learn about your rights.