The Health Services Executive (HSE) has reported a nine percent increase in the number of nursing home abuse and neglect referrals as compared to the previous year. The dramatic increase in allegations is the result of increased awareness about a specific type of abuse. This abuse is not ordinary physical or financial abuse, but it is primarily psychological and emotional abuse. Our
Illinois nursing home abuse attorneys have extensive experience with such legal matters.
Psychological and emotional elder abuse typically occurs to seniors living in convalescent or other assisted-living homes. It is most often perpetrated by employees of these facilities. This abuse manifests in two separate forms: verbally and nonverbally. Verbal abuse includes explicit and implicit intimidation, humiliation and ridicule, and the unfair blaming of elders for employees mistakes. Nonverbal abuse consists of ignoring the elder individual, purposefully isolating the elder from other individuals or activities, and a variety of other inappropriate behavior towards the elder.
In 2011, a total of 2,302 reports of elder abuse were made to the HSE. Nearly half of those allegations were reports of psychological and emotional abuse. A strong majority of the alleged abuse was perpetrated against elders over the age of 80. This statistic is explained by the increased incidence and severity of mental illnesses present amongst individuals of that age. Thus, this specific subset of elderly individuals are more susceptible to such abuse without even being cognizant it is occurring.
The difficulty with all elder abuse, especially psychological and emotional abuse, is the ability to both detect and prove its occurrence. The most noticeable among the many possible signs of elder abuse is an unhealthy tension between the elder and the caregiver. Another general sign of abuse includes drastic changes in the behavior or personality of the elder. But while these signs suggest the possibility of elder abuse, many individuals fail to even suspect such abuse because these signs can be plausibly explained by old age and a mental or physical illness.
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Presumably, it is far less likely this abuse will be perpetrated against elders that are capable of realizing and reporting it. This conjecture is evidenced by the fact that a majority of the alleged victims are over the age of 80. Although all types of abuse are horrific, elder abuse is especially terrible because often the victims are helpless individuals and the abusers are individuals being paid by the victims for care they aren’t receiving. In essence, these victims are paying for abuse which is a baffling concept.
Other than having all financial matters solidified, preventing elder abuse can be quite difficult. Studies suggest that having family members and friends constantly visit the elder greatly decreases the likelihood of abuse. Furthermore, a familiarity with the home the elder is living in will provide family members and friends with a better sense of the facility behind the flowery façade many so often display.
Possibly the best preventative measure is deterrence, which is promulgated through lawsuits and large damage awards. Nothing seems to ensure good behavior better than the threat of taking money from people. Further, the HSE recommends that any suspicion of elder abuse should be reported to the agency. It should be noted that while 2,302 allegations of elder abuse were made to the HSE in 2011, the National Center for Protection of Older People estimated there to be over 10,000 victims annually. Therefore, if you suspect any elder abuse, you should contact a nursing home abuse attorney.