Many Americans have no idea how prevalent Elder Abuse and Neglect is in our society today. Elder and vulnerable/dependent adult abuse affects millions of people in the U.S. It occurs regularly in long term care settings such as skilled nursing homes and assisted living facilities. It has been reported that our senior population is plagued by a vast reservoir of undetected and unreported incidents of elder abuse and neglect, and seemingly no one is immune from this societal malady.
Elder abuse and neglect will someday affect either yourself or someone you know. Research indicates that more than 40% of people over the age of 65 will enter a nursing home before they die. (Murtaugh, Kember, Spillman, & Carlson, 1997.) Nearly 1 in 3 U.S. nursing homes were cited for violations of federal standards that had the potential to cause harm or actually did cause harm to a resident. Nearly 1 out of 10 homes had violations that caused residents harm, serious injury, or placed them in jeopardy of death. (2001 U.S. House of Representatives Report).
In a study of 2,000 nursing home residents, 44% said they had been abused and 95% said they had been neglected or seen another resident neglected during their residency at a long term care facility. But we need not take the resident’s word for it. Over 50% of nursing home staff admitted to mistreating elder patients within one year prior to the study. Two thirds of those incidents involved neglect. (Ben Natan, 2010).
There is little doubt that more protections for long term care residents are needed. “The universal lack of resources, the enormous variation across jurisdictions, and the low priority given to elder abuse and neglect make it difficult to see how significant progress can be made without some federal standards and financial support for investigating, detecting, resolving, and preventing elder abuse in residential care.” (Hawes, C. & Kimbell, A., 2010) .
Further government intervention seems highly unlikely amidst draconian budget cuts and an ailing economy. Thus, the only bulwark against elder abuse and neglect is for the family members of our seniors to be actively engaged in the care and treatment received by our seniors while residents at long term care facilities. While the only deterrent against elder abuse and neglect remains the threat of civil litigation.