Elder Care: Addressing the Signs of Abuse


If someone you know resides in a professional care facility, or if you find yourself in a position of locating a new home for Mom, it is important to be aware of the basics regarding legality and responsibility of care giving, and the signs and symptoms of abuse toward the one who needs the care.

Elder abuse comes in many forms: physical, emotional and sexual, and could include acts of exploitation, neglect, abandonment or lack of care and intentional misappropriation of medications. Anyone can scan the news today and quickly find cases about the high rate of elder abuse in care facilities. Incidents brought to the forefront show employees in the workplace (and even visiting family members) as constant targets for accusations related to elder abuse, and sadly, many of the accusations are justified.

From an industry standpoint, more and more graduates are earning caregiver certifications, and the demand for health care workers remains high as the field continues to grow. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for nurses aides, orderlies and attendants is expected to increase by 20% between the years 2010 and 2020. This is good news for many: the elder population is living longer, jobs will be abundant in this field as elders will continue to require care, and family members can be assured that there will be plenty of support when it comes time to make change-of-life decisions. Caregivers are in their highest demand ever. The downside to this growth is that with so many employed in various fields, care centers are becoming overwhelmed and often lack the time and staff needed to properly train new employees. This could mean an increased number of cases related to elder abuse, making it even more important to know the facts when searching for a home, or addressing signs of abuse when they appear.

Searching for a care facility is a time consuming process, but there are some areas of research that are important before you sign on the dotted line and begin moving Mom into her new home.

  • Does your chosen location demonstrate good nursing and caregiving practices, and does it uphold their employees to a high standard of care?
  • Are the hiring practices stringent, and are background checks implemented for all new employees, regardless of position?
  • What is the complaint process? What will you need to register a complaint if you do suspect abuse?
  • Are all incidents investigated, no matter how small?
  • Is the number of caregivers adequate for the population of patients, and are caregivers assigned in appropriate roles? Are staff members overworked or assigned double shifts on a frequent basis?

Suppose you’ve done your research and you’re confident in your choice for new living quarters. All is going well. Over time, however, you begin to sense that something is “just not right.” Here are some of the physical and emotional signs to look for when you pay a visit to your elder:

  • Bruises. It’s an obvious sign and also the one that’s most easily covered up. Workers will be quick to say that Mom fell, or that she “bruises so easily these days.” And, Mom might be initially hesitant to point out a situation because she doesn’t want to bother anyone.
  • Crying. If your elder expresses sudden behavioral changes outside of the normal pattern, the tears could mean a cry for help.
  • Hovering attendants. Staff should be respectful of the time you want to spend with your loved one. If an attendant is constantly interrupting the conversation, answering for the elder and talking over everyone, you might be suspect that he or she has something to cover up. Request the time alone so you can chat with your elder in private.
  • Document instances where you have suspicions before you jump to any conclusions. Having early documentation may help your case. Once you’ve built some documentation for a case of abuse against the facility where your elder lives, contacting an attorney who specializes in this type of law is the next step.

It’s never too soon to be educated on the signs and symptoms of elder abuse, particularly if you are an advocate for that elder relative or friend. Elder abuse can yield severe criminal penalties, and can encompass many forms. By educating yourself on what to look for in a care giving facility, and what to look for when visiting your elder, you’ll find yourself in a better position overall toward prevention and taking action.

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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.