Data published by the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) suggests that 44% of patients that were residents in long-term care facilities were abused. While different studies report varying statistics on elder abuse in memory care facilities, current research suggests its alarming prevalence throughout the United States.
Factors such as diverse sample populations, definitions of elder abuse, and underreporting present a challenge in terms of compiling data, but consistent research support the fact that older adults with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease suffer abuse on a larger scale than those without memory disorders, even in long-term care facilities.
The Rise of Memory Care Facilities
According to AARP, memory care refers to a form of senior living for individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Care staff at these facilities provide residents with intensive, personalized care for needs related to their memory disorder and other health and social concerns.
Because those with Alzheimer’s and dementia require constant supervision to maintain their safety, families often choose memory care facilities for their loved ones when they can no longer care for them.
An article in Issues in Mental Health Nursing states that assisted living (AL) had become a popular choice for seniors with memory care needs around 2008. In fact, nearly 70% of all AL residents had dementia or Alzheimer’s, and moderate-to-severe cases accounted for most.
Unlike standard AL or nursing home environments, memory care facilities, which sometimes consist of a single unit within a larger long-term care home, aim to encourage as much independent living as possible while still providing direct supervision on a more regular basis.
While many memory care facilities achieve this goal, others mistreat their vulnerable residents, and loved ones often find the abuse hard to spot.
The Commonness of Elder Abuse in Memory Care Facilities
Residents of memory care facilities have highly specialized needs, which means staff must have the training, licensure, and patience to manage residents’ concerns efficiently and respectfully. Unfortunately, residents’ inability to recognize or remember instances of abuse and report it to the proper authorities remains limited.
Staff may take advantage of this by providing substandard care or mistreating residents to make their jobs easier.
The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care defines abuse as intentional pain or harm, and it exists in many different forms in memory care facilities.
Physical abuse occurs commonly in the form of hitting, shoving, kicking, spitting, or another rough handling, and care staff may psychologically abuse residents by yelling at them, belittling them, or humiliating them. Residents could also suffer from sexual abuse.
Neglect, on the other hand, involves the staff’s failure to care for residents’ needs in a way that puts their health and safety at risk. Neglect sometimes occurs intentionally, while factors such as overstaffing and lack of training can lead to unintentional instances of neglect. In memory care facilities, staff may neglect residents by failing to assist them with eating and drinking, bathing, and other hygiene needs, using the toilet, repositioning, or calls for help.
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The Effects of Abuse on Memory Care Facility Residents
Witnessing and recognizing signs of abuse and neglect can prove challenging for families, especially when their loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Without the presence of obvious signs, such as bruising or sores, they may not immediately notice any concerns. Eventually, however, the effects of neglect can lead to evidence of malnutrition, dehydration, and other major ongoing health concerns.
The overmedication of residents with dementia is also an issue in some facilities. The antipsychotic drugs often used to subdue patients can lead to excessive drowsiness, which acts as a restraint.
The Rights of Memory Care Facility Residents
Memory care facility residents have the right to:
- A dignified existence free from abuse and neglect in an environment that respects each resident’s individual wants and needs and contributes to their quality of life
- Self-determination, including the opportunity to contribute to care plans when possible, participate in activities, make requests, and reject treatments
- Receive all information regarding their care and changes to their environment as well as the means to contact authorities
- Raise grievances without the threat or fear of retaliation
- Access to friends, family, personal records, social and religious activities, and medical providers
- Privacy regarding medical care, personal relationships, and financial concerns
- Financial freedom and personal money management
- Notice, appeal, preparation, and orientation during discharge or transfer to and from a facility
Despite these clearly stated liberties, elder abuse occurs commonly in memory care facilities. However, families may have the opportunity to hold a facility accountable for the harm it caused their loved one.
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A Lawyer Can Help You Seek Financial Recovery in Your Case
Long-term care facilities have no excuse for allowing the mistreatment of their residents. If your parent, spouse, or another loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and suffered abuse or neglect in a memory care facility, our lawyers can help you pursue compensation. Call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 794-0444 for your free case evaluation with our legal team.
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