Elderly population vulnerable to abuse and neglect—here’s what you can do to help
According to the Alabama Department of Human Resources, the fastest growing segment of the state’s population are the elderly. These are NaNas and Pop-Pops, mothers and fathers, WWII vets, grocery greeters, bankers, and former boardroom wonders. Despite myriad backgrounds and life stories, one thing all elderly individuals have in common is a susceptibility to abuse.
While we often think of neglect, exploitation, and physical and sexual abuse as grievances enacted upon the very young, a recent expose from the Minnesota StarTribune shows that elder abuse is on the rise—particularly within state care facilities. And while state regulations and treatments standards are in place, state regulators lack the staff and expertise to effectively and appropriately investigate, leading to investigations that drag on for years with penalties never enforced. Many state prosecutors allege that they are not notified of these investigations until months after the abuse has occurred, creating overall difficulty in bringing about criminal charges at all.
Closer still to our state, in Georgia charges have been brought against elderly care facilities with scathing incidents like one in Atlanta where nurses laughed at a WWII veteran as he lay dying, gasping for air and crying out for help. In this instance, the nursing staff responsible for caring for him waited an hour to contact 911. Despite video evidence of the nurses’ cruelty, it took three years to bring the family of that veteran justice—with the damage, of course, already done.
Recently, Mobile, Alabama-based Taylor Martino attorneys Richard Taylor and Ed Rowan arbitrated a case and obtained a substantial monetary award for the family of nursing home resident. In this case, the elderly resident demonstrated signs of a stroke. Instead of procuring medical care for the resident, the medical staff at the nursing home ignored the man and went to lunch. When they returned from their break, the man had died. Who knows what would have happened had they taken the time and effort necessary to stop and care for the man rather than abandoning him to grab a bite to eat.
Nursing homes are charged with looking after senior citizens, providing them with regular assistance and even around-the-clock care. However, many nursing homes are understaffed with workers underpaid and overworked, thereby opening a potential floodgate for neglect. Still, regardless of the circumstances surrounding an abuse or neglect situation, there is no excuse for failing to uphold a standard of decency for the elderly under the care of the nursing home. When this standard of decency is not enacted, legal action must be taken to ensure these same grievances do not continue occurring to other susceptible individuals.
Whether physical, mental, sexual, or neglectful in nature, abuse against the elderly robs them of their dignity, comfort, and basic human rights. The elderly individuals living in care facilities in our state and others exist there under the expectation that they will not only be cared for, but that they will be treated with respect and kindness. The Alabama Department of Human Resources describes elder abuse as a grievous mistreatment not limited to any one race, ethnic group, or socioeconomic status. Even within their own homes, the elderly can be vulnerable to manipulation, exploitation, and abuse by family members and friends—those claiming to love them.
We must be vigilant about the safekeeping and care of our treasured older friends and family members. Not all abuse is physical, so not all abuse is obvious. Here are red flags of which to be aware:
- Bruises, wounds, cigarette burns, signs of physical restraint like lacerations and scraping around near the wrists and ankles (from rope or handcuffs)
- Torn or bloody undergarments
- Lack of physical grooming; dirty, uncombed hair; unwashed clothing; body odor
- Lack of medical aid necessities like eyeglasses, dentures, hearing aids, walkers, etc.
- Bedsores, malnutrition, dehydration
- Unexplained, uncharacteristic changes in behavior such as acting withdrawn or tense, anxious, edgy, and/or fearful
- Unexplained financial changes (such as changing over Power of Attorney or paying excessive fees for care) that the elderly individual cannot explain or comprehend
The dedicated attorneys at Taylor Martino, P.C. understand the unique changes that accompany the aging process and believe that our elderly population deserves the utmost respect and regard. Taylor Martino attorneys can and will serve as skillful advocates in the event that abuse or neglect has occurred to an elderly individual in your life. Contact our compassionate attorneys today if you suspect something is wrong with a senior you love. Click here for a FREE case evaluation today or call 1-800-256-7728 for more information.