Physical Abuse of the Elderly
Physical abuse of a defenseless elder is illegal according to both federal and state law. Even with the federal and state regulations forbidding physical abuse, it is not uncommon in nursing homes. About 2,500 cases of physical elder abuse are reported each year, and many instances go unreported.
A caregiver can physically abuse an elder by using enough force against him or her to cause pain. Physical abuse can be exhibited by hitting, slapping, beating, kicking or punching the elder. Also, the caregiver can physically abuse the elder inadvertently by using too much force against the patient. Physical abuse is also found in cases where the caregiver over or under prescribes necessary medication or deprives the patient of food or water. Physical abuse also results from patient on patient assaults and where the facility fails to protect the patient from another patient known to have aggressive behavior.
What You Should do if Your Loved One is the Victim of Physical Abuse
If your loved one has been the victim of physical abuse, contact your local Sheriff, police, or county Adult Protective Services (APS). A list of Adult Protective Services’ contact information organized by California county is provided here. If the physical abuse occurred in an assisted living facility or nursing home, call your respective Long Term Care Ombudsman. Visit the California Department of Aging website for a local list of contact information. Of course, make sure the patient is treated for his or her specific resulting injury.
Common Causes of Physical Abuse of an Elder
The main problem among nursing homes today is that they prioritize making money over providing quality care to their patients. Nursing homes will thus act in a way which maximizes profits at the expense of their patients’ well-being. To achieve higher profits, they will often hire people who are unfit and, on top of this, inadequately train them. In addition, nursing homes will hire only the bare minimum necessary for the nursing home to function, resulting in the nursing home employees caring for more patients and having more responsibility than they can handle. Or, nursing homes fail to take steps to protect their patients from known aggressive patients who have exhibited aggression in the past. While this is no excuse for physical abuse, it can help to explain it. Some employees feel overwhelmed and frustrated by their amount of work and take out their frustration on patients. Working with the sick and the mentally ill takes a certain amount of patience which can be stretched thin when employees are overworked. Physical abuse can also be the result of inadequate background checks on nursing home employees.