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Does abuse in nursing homes really happen that often?

If you are asking this question, there is a good chance it's because you have a loved one in a nursing home or you are looking for one for a loved one. The last thing you want to know is whether nursing home abuse is that prevalent because you don't want to think of your parent or grandparent suffering in silence.

Sadly, nursing home abuse isn't just a problem -- it's a crisis. With an increasing number of people reaching their golden years, the number of people going into long-term care facilities makes the potential victim pool that much larger.

Some of the data

The National Council on Aging says that one out of every 10 people over the age of 60 has been the victim of some type of abuse. In fact, nearly five million of the country's seniors suffer at the hands of another person every year, but only about 7% of those incidents ever reach authorities. Elderly loved ones are most vulnerable in nursing homes since they tend not to interact with their families and friends often enough for them to talk about the abuse or for someone to notice something isn't right.

The isolation in a nursing home makes the elderly vulnerable to confinement, passive neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and willful deprivation. Nursing home residents are also often financially exploited, but this could come from people close to them in addition to someone in the nursing home.

What to do about it

The goal would be to completely eliminate the abuse of the elderly, but that may not happen for some time. In the meantime, you can do some things to help make sure your loved one doesn't become a victim, or if he or she does, you catch it quickly and deal with it. Otherwise, the following steps could prove a good start to keeping the country's elderly population safe:

  • Make sure nursing homes have adequate staff to avoid burnout and fatigue, which lead to frayed nerves and lashing out at residents.
  • Conduct better vetting of potential staff members to make sure nothing in their background would lead them to take advantage of such a vulnerable population.
  • Subject nursing homes to increased accountability by involving and empowering residents who are able in protecting themselves through working with staff and administrators to address any issues.
  • Subject nursing homes to increased oversight by government agencies to make sure they are providing a safe, nurturing and healthy environment for their residents.

In addition, your involvement with your loved one who is a nursing home resident helps them more than you may know. You may be the first line of defense for him or her since residents will often not say anything. You will need to remain vigilant and look for signs of abuse and neglect.

If you do suspect your loved one suffered some form of nursing home abuse, don't hesitate to say something; protect your loved one, protect your loved one's rights and understand your legal options.

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