Elder abuse can occur in any setting, including the home, community, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities. The following types of elder abuse and neglect have reached epidemic proportions in America. Statistics gathered by the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) are alarming:
- A third of all nursing homes received citations for violating federal standards that can cause harm to residents in 2001, according to a U.S. House of Representatives Report.
- Ten percent of nursing homes had violations on record that have involved actual harm, serious harm, or death in the same year, according to the same House of Representatives report.
- More than half of elder care staff admitted to mistreating residents in 2010, according to a study published in Nursing Management.
Not all abuse is physical. There are numerous types of abusive mistreatment, including neglect, financial extortion, abandonment, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. Below, we discuss the four primary types of abuse that are prevalent in elder care in America.
If you suspect your loved one has suffered abuse or neglect, contact the Adult Protective Services (APS) in your area for help. To discuss any legal options that may be available in regards to the abuse and seeking financial restitution, you can contact Brauns Law at 404-418-8244 for a free consultation.
Not including cases of neglect, physical abuse is the most common form of elder abuse, accounting for 15.7 percent of the 2.15 million cases, according to 2015 statistics from the NCEA and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). This means that approximately 337,500 older adults suffer physical abuse each year by their caretakers, or over 900 cases a day. Elder physical abuse comes in many forms – not just hitting. It involves any type of physical force that causes the victim impairment, physical pain, or bodily injury.
Below are a few examples of physical abuse common amongst elders:
- Pushing or shoving
- Using physical punishment
- Force feeding
- Using physical restraints
An estimated 7.3 percent of elder abuse cases (over 156,000 victims per year) involve emotional or psychological abuse, according to statistics from the NCEA and BJS. Because emotional and psychological abuse are intangible and because the abusers might threaten the victims with harm if they report it, many of these cases go unreported.
The NCEA defines emotional abuse as “the infliction of anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts.” Many use the term synonymously with psychological and verbal abuse. Insults, humiliation, and patronizing are some of the most common ways elders suffer emotional abuse, many other types of acts fall under this category of abuse. Examples include:
- Verbal assaults
- Ignoring or giving the “silent treatment”
- Blaming or scapegoating
- Verbal threats and intimidation tactics
- Screaming at residents
- Ridiculing and belittling
- Keeping the elder isolated from friends and family
- Using extreme punishments such as locking the elder in a dark room
Sexual abuse involves any type of non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an elderly person. While this is the least common type of reported elder abuse, an estimated 8,600 elder or vulnerable adults face sexual abuse each year, the NCEA and BJS report. Of course, these are only the cases that elders or loved ones actually report.
“Sexual abuse is among the most heinous abuses committed against nursing home residents. It also is the least detected, least reported, and least acknowledged type of abuse,” explains Robert A. Hawks in Marquette University Law School’s publication Marquette Elder's Advisor. Many victims may lack the ability or are too frightened or embarrassed to tell anyone.
Sexual abuse is self-explanatory; it means any unwanted sexual contact with the elder. Sexual contact with someone who does not have the mental faculties to provide consent is also sexual abuse. Examples of ways caregivers typically sexually abuse elders in nursing homes include:
- Rape and sodomy
- Touching of private parts
- Coerced nudity
- Making unwanted, offense sexual propositions
- Exposing genitals to the elder
- Taking sexually explicit photographs
- Forcing the resident to look at sexually explicit material
Financial abuse occurs whenever there is “illegal or improper use of an elder's funds, property, or assets,” the NCEA explains. Approximately 12.3 percent of reported elder abuse cases involve financial abuse or material exploitation, according to the NCEA and BJS.
Oftentimes, the perpetrators are the elders’ own family members; however, hired caregivers and those with power of attorney can also easily financially exploit elders because they already have access to victims’ assets and accounts.
Financial abuse covers a broad spectrum of wrongs, including:
- Taking (stealing) money or other property
- Using checks or credit cards without authorization
- Coercing or deceiving an elder to sign a deed, will, or power of attorney
- Forging a signature
- Committing financial fraud, which the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA) defines as “the use of deception, trickery, false pretense, or dishonest acts or statements for financial gain”
- Scamming by telemarketers
- Conning to gain trust and access to assets
- Promising love or care in exchange for money
- Overcharging for services or products
- Improper use of guardianship or conservatorship
Do I have a case I can pursue?
If you believe you have witnessed signs of elder abuse, you should talk to an attorney about what your legal options are. You may be able to file a claim or lawsuit against the care provider or facility if it provided negligent care, acted carelessly, purposefully abused your loved one, or otherwise could have prevented the abuse but failed to. An attorney can review your case and determine if it meets the requirements to pursue a settlement.
If your case is successful, you can recover a wide range of damages related to your loved one’s losses. This can include compensation for things such as medical bills, pain and suffering, mental anguish, lost quality of life, and death. And given that many of elder abuse fraud cases involve willful misconduct, you might also receive an award for punitive damages, funds awarded to victims as a means to punish the wrongdoer.