Articles Posted in Defining Elder Abuse

psychological-elder-abuse-300x225-300x225Psychological abuse of elders may also be called emotional elder abuse. The terms are often interchangeable and denote the intentional infliction of mental and/or emotional anguish. Psychological abuse may come in the forms of threats, humiliation and even nonverbal conduct by caregivers.

Unfortunately far too many elders in nursing homes in California become victims of psychological abuse at the hands of those charged to care for them. Thankfully, in order to combat this epidemic, organizations such as the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA) work tirelessly to prevent of abuse and neglect of older persons and adults with disabilities.

The NCPEA is an association of researchers, practitioners, educators, and advocates dedicated to protecting the safety, security, and dignity of America’s most vulnerable citizens. It was established in 1988 to achieve a clearer understanding of abuse and provide direction and leadership to prevent it. The Committee is one of three partners that make up the National Center on Elder Abuse, designed to serve as the nation’s clearinghouse on information and materials on abuse and neglect.

senior_financial_troubles-300x200Identity theft continues to arise as a harsh reality for millions of Americans each year. In fact, according to the Justice Department, more than 11 million Americans fall victim to some form of identity theft/fraud each year. That accounts for more than $20 billion in lost money, with the average injury to victims at more than $4,000.

Elders may be at an increased risk of becoming victims of identity theft because according to information provided by the FTC, “Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to this crime because their personal information may be easily accessible by numerous individuals.”

Unfortunately for elders, particularly those in nursing homes, this does ring true. Personal and sensitive information may be attained by those with bad intentions. Therefore, it is important that elders and their loved ones keep a close eye on personal information, including social security numbers, driver’s licenses and credit cards. These identifying numbers and accounts can be accessed easily, and drain an elder of savings in some cases. In others debt in an elder’s name may be accrued.

Elder-Abuse-dreamstime_m_28140354-300x200Elder abuse has been called an epidemic and is viewed by many as a national crisis, for good reason. As many as five million elders in the United States are abused, neglected, or exploited each year and 90% of these cases are perpetrated by family members or trusted advisors. The National Center of Elder Abuse has said that only one of every 14 cases of elder abuse is reported, while others put the number as high as one out of every 23 cases. Criminal elder abuse describes the willful infliction of physical or emotional suffering on an elder. Civil elder abuse includes any physical or financial abuse, neglect or abandonment resulting in physical or mental harm.

If you’re like me, those statistics are simply staggering, and we cannot continue to ignore this problem. But, how can we work to stop elder abuse? Well, there are actually a number of ways you can help in the fight to end elder abuse. Here are three ways you can help today:

1. Let your legislators know that you are an advocate for nursing home reform legislation. This would involve sitting down and simply stating your position to your elected official in writing. It is their job to represent the voice of his/her constituents. You can find your legislators here. Let them know that you find the statistics alarming, and that you support measures to help reform the nursing home industry to prevent additional abuse to elders.

Elder abuse in any form is strictly prohibited by California law. In addition to physical abuse and neglect, medication errors in nursing homes are considered a form of elder abuse. Unfortunately, due to insufficient staffing in many long-term nursing facilities, errors in the type and amount of medications administered to residents occur with alarming frequency. While in many cases there may be no detrimental side effects to an elder who is given the incorrect medication, or the wrong dosage; in many other cases, the error can prove fatal.

For example, if two patients’ medications are mixed up, and incorrectly administered, the outcome can be disastrous. A diabetic who is mistakenly given a fellow patients’ heart medication may not under normal circumstances have a negative reaction. However, if that heart medication happens interacts with other medications he or she is taking, or causes side effects that the patient can’t sustain; the mistake can result in death.

Other medications must be taken consistently in order for them to be effective. Therefore, missing a dose of the proper medication can have devastating consequences on the elder who has missed their dosage. Other medication errors that may occur in nursing homes include:

mandated-reporting-300x213-300x213While Mandated Reporters are required to report elder abuse within 48 hours and know who to report the abuse to, many non-mandated reporters suspect Elder Abuse, but don’t know where to turn. The general rule of thumb is to always err on the side of caution when suspecting elder abuse. Unfortunately, if unreported, elder abuse often escalates, and all too often the results are tragic. If you suspect an elder you know is being abused, report it immediately. You may be saving the health, assets, or even the life of an elder who may be too afraid to report the abuse themselves.

There are numerous ways to report suspected elder abuse, and it is probably much easier than you think. Furthermore you will be protected from criminal or civil liability, so do not let the fear of retribution prevent you from ever reporting abuse.

If you suspect an elder is being abused in any capacity, while in a long-term care facility such as a nursing home; report the incident to both the Local Long-Term Care Ombudsman and the California Department of Public Health. You should also consider reporting to Adult Protective Services Agency.

In its simplest form, financial elder abuse involves taking money or property from an elderly person with the intent to defraud them. It is a growing problem in California given the state’s increasing senior population. The signs of financial elder abuse can be difficult to see. Though the presence of any of the following signs associated with financial elder abuse is not absolute evidence of abuse, it should prompt further investigation:

• Elder is withdrawn.

• Elder is confused and tends to be more forgetful than usual.

The use of physical and chemical restraints in California nursing homes is sometimes a necessary way of protecting patients from injuring themselves and others. When used excessively and, more importantly, without consent, the practice becomes outright abusive. Often this method is used not simply to protect the patient, but rather to make a staff member’s job easier. Overuse of restraints is exacerbated by the growing number of understaffed nursing facilities.

Physical restraints are used to keep patients from wandering around the facility, a potential hazard for the patient and others. A nursing home is required by law to have the resident’s consent before using a physical restraint. Symptoms of physical restraints include sores or bruising on the arms and legs, usually on the ankles and wrists.

Chemical restraints involve the administering of powerful psychotropic drugs to sedate and confine the patient by taking away his or her cognitive abilities. These drugs are not permitted under any circumstances unless the nursing care facility outlines a legitimate medical reason for their use and further provides the frequency and dosage. Because most people are not familiar with the side effects of psychotropic drugs, it can be more difficult to identify chemical restraints than physical restraints.

The elderly are prime targets for financial scams. Persons over the age of 50 control over 70% of the nation’s wealth. Yet senior citizens are more likely to have disabilities or impairments that make them vulnerable to manipulation and prevent them from taking action against their abusers. Some older people are unsophisticated about financial matters or unaware of how much their assets have appreciated. Others cannot help but follow a predictable pattern of receiving and cashing in their monthly checks, making it easy for predators to guess when they have money or need to go to the bank. Many times, the very family members and helpers they depend upon are the perpetrators who unduly influence and exploit them.

senior-wallet-1-300x200Financial abuse refers to the theft or embezzlement of an elder’s money or property. It includes a wide range of conduct, from the immediate theft of money and property to the use of deception, coercion, or undue influence over time. Perpetrators may also reap financial gain by forging the elder’s signature, forcing them to sign a deed, will, or power of attorney, placing charges on their credit cards without permission, or using any fraud, scam, or deceptive act to financially exploit the victim. Sadly, the perpetrator does not have to be in proximity with the victim; AARP estimates that Americans lose $40 billion each year to fraudulent sales pitches that promise a lottery win, prize win, travel package, or “amazing home loan.” Over 56% of the victims targeted are aged 50 or older. Some widespread forms of financial elder abuse include:

• Identity theft

We’ve previously chronicled the rise of the grandparent scam, wherein a telephone scammer poses as a relative or grandchild and calls an elderly person, citing an emergency and asking him or her to send money or account information immediately.

So, how do these scams work? Frequently, a caller will make contact and when the target answers the phone, the caller will respond with: “Hi, Grandma” or “Hi, Grandpa,”3 in hopes to establish a connection that will confuse the elderly phone victim and make him or her more likely to share their financial information or wire money to the fraudster. These con artists usually concoct a scheme where they pose as a grandchild and may say something along the lines of, “My car broke down and in order to get it fixed and come home, I need money,” or may pretend to need bail money, or that they’ve been mugged. Sensing an emergency, the elder may supply their personal financial information to the caller, unknowingly playing into the hands of the con-artists.

Unfortunately, this scheme is sometimes extended, as the personal information of the victim is shared with other scam organizations who may place follow-up calls, promising that your money can be returned if you follow a few steps. Many of these fraudulent caller organizations work in tandem to take advantage of elderly citizens. The sad news is that in San Diego and around the country, telemarketing and call scams are on the rise, and prove to be a real danger for the financial stability of America’s elder population.

Based on a 2012 study investigating the implications of injuries suffered by senior residents of nursing homes, some “24,190 fatal and 3.2 million medically treated non-fatal fall related injuries” were reported across the U.S. This startling figure demonstrates just how serious and prevalent nursing home injuries linked to falls can be. In the same study, researchers discovered that the 2012 related medical costs of these nursing home falls totaled $616.5 million for those falls that proved fatal, while another $30.3 billion in costs were linked to non-fatal nursing home falls.

Another disheartening aspect of the study revealed that those injuries and the related costs are on the rise. In 2015, nursing home fall-related healthcare costs jumped, with the cost of fatal fall injuries rising to $637.5 million, while costs related to non-fatal fall injuries rose to $31.3 billion.

Though the study highlights an injury epidemic across America’s nursing homes, it also detailed the profound economic impact that nursing home related injuries have on the healthcare economy and on the elders who sustain the injuries. The study also noted that the risk for falls—and the associated cost and economic impact of these fatal and non-fatal injuries—increases as nursing home residents age. The statistical risk factor continues to climb if the nursing home resident is a woman, as well.