Many seniors live in Florida nursing homes with family far away. As a family member you may come and visit and your loved one my tell you he or she is being abused or neglected. Although your first reaction may be it is just dementia, it is important to be able to notice the signs of nursing home abuse and be able to act accordingly. Abuse and neglect can lead to suffering and a premature death.
The Jewish Lawyer Network's Nursing Home Abuse Helpline is answered by a geriatric social worker concerned about nursing home negligence in Florida and your loved ones. We must protect our Florida seniors from any injury, abuse or negligence in a nursing home. Jewish lawyers for the protection of the elderly, Nursing Abuse lawyers, are here to help you now. if your loved one has been injured in a nursing home call our nursing home abuse helpline. The elderly deserves protection and justice.
Elder Abuse and Neglect
Linda M. Woolf, Ph.D., Webster University
As the number and percentage of individuals 65 and over has increased in this country, so has the incidence of elder abuse. Unfortunately, the prevalence and nature of this growing problem has generally remained hidden from public view. It is imperative that both professionals and lay persons become more aware of the scope and many issues surrounding this sensitive topic. This web site is designed to address many of the concerns surrounding elder abuse ranging from information concerning the incidence of abuse to a discussion of intervention strategies. It is essential that the incidence of abuse and awareness of the range and breadth of various types of abuse be discussed and understood. However, an awareness of the problem of elder abuse is not enough. Therefore, issues surrounding detection of abuse and strategies for prevention and intervention will also be addressed.
Types of Abuse
Passive and Active Neglect: With passive and active neglect the caregiver fails to meet the physical, social, and/or emotional needs of the older person. The difference between active and passive neglect lies in the intent of the caregiver. With active neglect, the caregiver intentionally fails to meet his/her obligations towards the older person. With passive neglect, the failure is unintentional; often the result of caregiver overload or lack of information concerning appropriate caregiving strategies.
Physical Abuse: Physical abuse consists of an intentional infliction of physical harm of an older person. The abuse can range from slapping an older adult to beatings to excessive forms of physical restraint (e.g. chaining).
Material/Financial Abuse: Material and financial abuse consists of the misuse, misappropriation, and/or exploitation of an older adults material (e.g. possessions, property) and/or monetary assets.
Psychological Abuse: Psychological or emotional abuse consists of the intentional infliction of mental harm and/or psychological distress upon the older adult. The abuse can range for insults and verbal assaults to threats of physical harm or isolation.
Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse consists of any sexual activity for which the older person does not consent or is incapable of giving consent. The sexual activity can range from exhibitionism to fondling to oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse.
Violations of Basic Rights: Violations of basic rights is often concomitant with psychological abuse and consists of depriving the older person of the basic rights that are protected under state and federal law ranging from the right of privacy to freedom of religion.
Self Neglect: The older person fails to meet their own physical, psychological, and/or social needs.
Potential Indicators of Abuse
Passive and active neglect
- Evidence that personal care is lacking or neglected
- Signs of malnourishment (e.g. sunken eyes, loss of weight)
- Chronic health problems both physical and/or psychiatric
- Dehydration (extreme thirst)
- Pressure sores (bed sores)
- Overt signs of physical trauma (e.g. scratches, bruises, cuts, burns, punctures, choke marks)
- Signs of restraint trauma (e.g. rope burns, gag marks, welts)
- Injury – particularly if repeated (e.g. sprains, fractures, detached retina, dislocation, paralysis)
- Additional physical indicators – hypothermia, abnormal chemistry values, pain upon being touched
- Repeated "unexplained" injuries
- Inconsistent explanations of the injuries
- A physical examination reveals that the older person has injuries which the caregiver has failed to disclose
- A history of doctor or emergency room "shopping"
- Repeated time lags between the time of any "injury or fall" and medical treatment
Material or Financial Abuse
- Unusual banking activity (e.g. large withdrawals during a brief period of time, switching of accounts from one bank to another, ATM activity by a homebound elder)
- Bank statements (credit card statements, etc.) no longer come to the older adult
- Documents are being drawn up for the elder to sign but the elder can not explain or understand the purpose of the papers
- The elders living situation is not commensurate with the size of the elder's estate (e.g. lack of new clothing or amenities, unpaid bills)
- The caregiver only expresses concern regarding the financial status of the older person and does not ask questions or express concern regarding the physical and/or mental health status of the elder
- Personal belongings such as jewelry, art, furs are missing
- Signatures on checks and other documents do not match the signature of the older person
- Recent acquaintances, housekeepers, "care" providers, etc. declare undying affection for the older person and isolate the elder from long-term friends or family
- Recent acquaintances, housekeeper, caregiver, etc. make promises of lifelong care in exchange for deeding all property and/or assigning all assets over to the acquaintance, caregiver, etc.
- Psychological Signs:
- Ambivalence, deference, passivity, shame
- Anxiety (mild to severe)
- Depression, hopelessness, helplessness, thoughts of suicide
- Confusion, disorientation
- Trembling, clinging, cowering, lack of eye contact
- Trauma to the genital area (e.g. bruises)
- Venereal disease
- Infections/unusual discharge or smell
- Indicators common to psychological abuse may be concomitant with sexual abuse
Violation of basic rights
Caregiver withholds or reads the elder1s mail
Caregiver intentionally obstructs the older person1s religious observances (e.g. dietary restrictions, holiday participation, visits by minister/priest/rabbi etc.)
Caregiver has removed all doors from the older adult's rooms.
As violation of basic rights is often concomitant with psychological abuse the indicators of basic rights violations are similar indicators as those for psychological abuse.
Additional Indicators of Abuse or Neglect
- Elder is not given the opportunity to speak without the caregiver being present.
- Caregiver exhibits high levels of indifference or anger towards the older adult
- Overmedication or oversedation
When you call the Department of Adult Services to report an elder abuse in Florida
Be prepared to give:
- Name of elder
- Address (include room number if in a long-term care facility)
- Age (if known)
- Phone number (if known)
- Specifics of what is happening now – Why did you decide to call today?
Calls are confidential
After a call is received, a trained elder abuse case worker will respond. The most serious/dangerous cases will be responded to within the shortest period of time (within 24 hours).
Adult Protective Services, In many states, Adult Protective Services, the Area Agency on Aging, the Division of Aging, the Department of Aging, or the Department of Social Services is designated to receive and investigate allegations of elder abuse and neglect. Your local phone book (usually the Blue Pages) or phone operator can provide you a local phone number.
Local Law Enforcement: 911 or your local police number. Best place to call if the elder is in immediate danger
Long Term Care Ombudsman Program: Designed to provide assistance in cases of abuse/neglect within a nursing home setting. Your local phone book (usually the Blue Pages), phone operator, or state agency on aging can provide you a local phone number.
Local Area Agency on Aging: Every area agency on aging operates an information and referral service. They can provide individuals with information concerning a broad range of services and programs available to individuals 60 and older. Your local phone book (usually the Blue Pages) or phone operator can provide you a local phone number.
National Center on Elder Abuse: 1-202-682-2470 or 1-202-682-0100.
810 First Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20002