Nursing Homes As “Safe Places” For Older Adults Facing Abuse?

We often hear stories about elder abuse in nursing homes, but there are other places where seniors face threats of abuse. Perhaps we don’t like to think about older adults being abused by their caregivers, but according to a recent report in US News, nearly 10 percent of adults over the age of 60 experience some kind of abuse, and “it’s often perpetrated by a victim’s own offspring.”

In the past few years, certain nursing homes have been taking action to help these elder adults to find a safe place for shelter, medication, and care.

What Kinds of Abuse Occur in the Home?
Seniors can be targets of various kinds of abuse according to a USA Today story, including physical, financial, sexual, and emotional abuses. The article explains that the “dismal economy” may be one of the causes of high tensions between adult children and their aging parents. When money is tight, elders are often forced to live with their children and grandchildren, and sometimes these caregivers are tempted to take financial advantage of these older persons.

In fact, while physical abuse and emotional abuse may be the most common forms of abuse in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, older adults living with their children seem to be at greatest risk for financial abuse. In fact, financial abuse is the most common type of documented elder abuse.

How Does This Happen?
Sometimes, seniors become ill and they “unknowingly sign over their assets to people who care for them.” When this happens, elder adults can recover from their illnesses to find that their checking and savings accounts have been completely cleaned out, or that their homes have been sold. Many reports also cite adult children cashing their parents’ social security checks and keeping the money for themselves, according to Dan Reingold, the president and CEO of a long-term care facility in New York. In fact, a 2011 MetLife Mature Market Institute study showed that on average, elder victims of financial abuse lose $2.9 billion per year.

Physical abuse can also come into play in home-care settings, in which children and other caregivers are charged with withholding food and medicine, and perpetrating physical beatings.

How Nursing Homes Are Helping to Combat Abuse
Elder abuse is a serious problem in our country, but most people aren’t aware of it the same way they are of child abuse or domestic abuse—awareness efforts tend to wane when it comes to elder abuse. So, are adult childrens’ homes safe for their aging parents? In many cases, they’re not. In reaction to rising rates of elder abuse in family members’ homes, some nursing homes have established shelters in which seniors can seek “emergency short-term housing and health care services.”

In 2005, the Hebrew Home, a facility in Riverdale, New York, created an on-site shelter. It was the first of these types of efforts, and six other nursing facilities have “replicated the approach.” Hebrew Home has also been in talks with other facilities around the country to develop similar shelters for older adults who have been abused by family members and other in-home caregivers.

Elder care advocates continue to push for more shelters like the Weinberg Center at the Hebrew Home, and they’re establishing campaigns to raise awareness about elder abuse in our communities. If you have worries about an older adult’s care, it’s important to talk to someone about your concerns. An experienced attorney can discuss these issues with you today.

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