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It could be a son or daughter’s worst nightmare: lovingly entrusting her ailing parent with a nursing home, then learning that mom or dad is suffering physical or emotional abuse. Sadly, nursing home abuse is prevalent. Adults are living longer, and as the number of nursing home residents increases, so do instances of abuse. If you believe that your loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse, you should speak to a nursing home lawyer in Hilton Head as soon as you can. Call us today at (843) 881-8644 to schedule a free consultation.
The U.S. population is steadily aging. Almost 10,000 Americans turn 65 each day, per the non-profit Justice in Aging. For the first time in history, by 2030 the elderly will outnumber children (U.S. Census Bureau). Census Bureau experts predict that in the next decade, the elderly will comprise about 20 percent (20%) of the U.S. population. Per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) most recent report, there are 1.7 million licensed nursing home beds.
Because of their significant physical and mental health issues, the elderly are most vulnerable to abuse. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports that approximately 10 percent (10%) of seniors suffered some form of elder abuse. Experts believe that figure is low because only 7 percent of cases are reported to authorities. Some estimate the annual number of elderly abuse cases may be as high as 5 million. An elderly person’s mortality risk triples after suffering abuse.
With frailties and infirmities, seniors are simply less able to stand up for themselves or fight back if bullied or attacked. Caretakers can take advantage of the elderly person’s poor hearing or eyesight, or weakened physical or mental conditions. Also, family members or friends might dismiss the elderly patient (for example, assuming he has dementia or simply ‘doesn’t make sense’). With mental decline, the patient might not be taken seriously.
Senior citizen abuse occurs most often at assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Poor training, low hourly wages, and understaffing create a recipe for disaster. Not surprisingly, nursing home residents are least likely to report abuse. They may be incapacitated, incoherent, too frightened or intimidated to speak up, or they’re not believed.
Nursing home abuse is sometimes hard to spot, especially if there are no outwardly apparent visible signs. Types of abuse include:
Abuse is rarely an isolated instance, but rather a longstanding pattern with one or more patients.
Has the senior’s behavior or personality changed? Here are many signs of abuse:
When we think about abuse, we tend to focus on child and spousal abuse. Awareness about elderly abuse surfaced in the 1970s, when it became a national issue. States passed laws to protect the elderly from abuse.
South Carolina enacted the Omnibus Adult Protection Act (OAPA), to protect the most vulnerable adults from caregiver harm. “Vulnerable adults” are those over age 18 who are limited due to advanced age, organic brain damage or physical, mental or emotional dysfunction. “Caregivers” are not limited to paid professionals, but can include relatives and other household members.
Under the OAPA, certain professionals (for example, teachers, nurses, doctors, social workers, psychologists) must report if they reasonably believe the vulnerable adult is being abused, neglected, or exploited. Actual knowledge is not required; a professional with a reasonable belief must report. Failure to report is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $2,500 fine and one year in jail.
Adult Protective Services are coordinated through the Department of Social Services, which handles investigations and protective custody proceedings if necessary.
If you or someone you know was hurt by nursing home abuse, or you suspect it, don’t delay. Damages may be significant, and we can help your loved ones. We are skilled elderly law attorneys at the Hughey Law Firm, conveniently located in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. We focus on the helping older adults and handle many cases involving alleged abuse in nursing homes and adult care facilities. To schedule a free consultation, call us right away at (843) 881-8644 or contact us online.
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