State and federal agencies across the United States investigated more than 713,000 reports of elder abuse in 2017. However, representatives from the nation’s leading organizations warn that this could still be only a small fraction of the cases that occur nationwide.
As a part of a new effort to compile data on elder abuse from sources across the country, the New England Center for Investigative Reporting (NECIR) released data about reported abuse during the 2017 fiscal year to USA Today.
There Are Problems With This Data Set
Of the 700,000+ reports of elder abuse, the investigating agency confirmed abuse in 235,000 cases. More than half of this number are cases of self-neglect, while others span the range of all types of elder abuse. In addition to seniors who suffered injuries and losses as a result of abuse, about 10% of the victims reported to local agencies were people living with special needs who are under age 50.
It is important to consider that experts warn that this number is likely much lower than the true number of abuse victims. In fact, it does not include any data at all from six states. These six states are:
- New Mexico
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Still, this estimate is a step in the right direction. The 2017 data set is the first attempt by a federal agency to track elder abuse investigations and confirmed cases across the county. Because each state has different rules and tracks this information differently, it may take time to get a better understanding of how to use this data to understand the scope of the problem.
Types of Elder Abuse Affecting Nursing Home Residents
Elder abuse occurs in many forms. For nursing home residents, these can include:
Nursing Home Neglect
Neglect occurs when an obligated care provider fails the nursing home resident, leaving the resident without clean clothes, food or water, prescribed medications, support for bathing or toilet use, social interaction, and other necessary support.
Physical abuse is often what we think of when we picture “abuse.” Hitting, striking, pushing, unnecessary restraint, and other similar actions constitute physical abuse.
Emotional abuse is often much more difficult to prove than other types of abuse because there are no bruises. There are no physical scars. Instead, this form of abuse takes the form of humiliation, intimidation, and other tactics intended to control the senior.
Sexual abuse includes sexual battery, sexual assault, rape, and other unwanted sexual contact. It is important to note that many seniors in nursing homes do not have the cognitive awareness to give consent.
Financial abuse occurs when an abuser scams a senior out of money or assets. This may be as simple as stealing money from a purse or wallet or as complex as billing the senior for services they never received.
Self-Care and Elder Abuse
Perhaps most importantly when considering these numbers is the prevalence of self-neglect. While this most frequently occurs in adults living alone, seniors in nursing homes can also become a victim of self-neglect. This occurs when the resident cannot provide necessary care for themselves and the nursing home fails to provide the support and care necessary for them. Like other types of abuse and neglect, self-neglect can lead to physical and psychological injuries.
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U.S. Elder Abuse Epidemic
While these numbers do not paint the full picture of how prevalent elder abuse and nursing home abuse really is in the United States, it is apparent that there is an elder care epidemic. Far too many seniors are becoming victims of abusers they trust, such as their caregivers or staff at their nursing home.
If a nursing home resident sustains injuries as a result of abuse or neglect, they can likely take legal action to hold their abuser or the administration of the nursing home liable. Accountability of this nature may allow the victim and their family to recover compensation for medical bills and follow-up care, related expenses, pain and suffering, and more.
Talk to a Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect Lawyer Today
If you believe your loved one was a victim of nursing home abuse, elder abuse, or another type of abuse targeting seniors, an attorney from Pintas & Mullins Law Firm may be able to help. We offer free case reviews as a part of our initial consultation. We also handle these cases on a contingency-fee-basis, so you never pay anything out-of-pocket.
Call our team today to discuss your case with a member of our team during your complimentary consultation.