Dementia patients at greater risk of abuse in nursing homes

Nursing home abuse is a serious issue that affects thousands of elderly people and their families. What is even more troubling is that a significant number of nursing home residents suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, or some other form of dementia. Studies show that these vulnerable patients are more prone to psychological, emotional, financial, physical and/or sexual abuse, according to the Alzheimer’s Society. A Lake County nursing home abuse lawyer knows that in some cases, this abuse can lead to serious injuries and even death. However, all cases of nursing home abuse in Illinois and across the country are unacceptable and deplorable.

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Dementia Patients at Greater Risk of Abuse in Nursing Homes

As the baby boomer generation continues to age, more Americans are expected to fill the nation’s nursing homes. Furthermore, researchers predict a substantial growth in the number of people who suffer from dementia by 2025, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse. This is a growing cause of concern for residents who currently live in nursing homes, as well as the influx of elderly people who are scheduled to enter into the nursing home population in the near future.

Facts and statistics

Alzheimer’s disease, and other forms of dementia, are more common among the elderly population than some may think. The National Center on Elder Abuse reported that the rate of people suffering from dementia increases as people get older. While more than 5.1 million Americans over the age of 65 have been diagnosed with a form of dementia, nearly half of people 85 years of age and older suffer from these symptoms. Sadly, close to 50 percent of people diagnosed with some form of dementia has experienced abuse. Some incidents of abuse have been detected and reported. However, there are many cases that go unreported, which makes it difficult to truly understand the scope of the problem.

A closer look at dementia

Contrary to what some people may think, dementia is a group of symptoms rather than an actual mental condition. These symptoms are caused by brain cell deterioration, and affects peoples’ ability to think, socialize and remember things and people in their lives. People suffering from dementia often have difficulties communicating with others, which a Lake County nursing home abuse lawyer understands, may make them an easy target for abusers.

In some cases, factors in the environment, certain medical conditions and medication can trigger dementia and make it worse. For example, a study published in the National Law Review looked at nursing home residents with suffer from dementia. Researchers found that when people were taken out of a familiar environment and moved into a care center, it often triggered certain behavioral changes. Not only are people given new caretakers, but they may have to share a room with another person. They are also forced to switch to a new daily living routine, and lose what little independence they may have had when living on their own. Residents are in a weak position as they try to make sense of these dramatic changes.

Behavioral changes associated with dementia

People who live with dementia often display similar behavioral characteristics. One of the most common indicators that a person has a form of dementia is that they have trouble remembering people or events. Dementia patients may have a dramatic change in their personalities and often withdraw from their social surroundings, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Residents with dementia may forget to accomplish daily hygiene tasks, such as brushing their teeth, changing their clothes, bathing and combing their hair. As a result, they may appear neglected.

Nursing home residents that have dementia often require special care, and may become easily agitated or aggressive. This behavior is hard for some care workers to handle, and as a result, workers may loser their temper and become violent with the residents. According to a CBS News article, an investigation into nursing homes across the United States found that poorly trained workers and understaffed facilities generated a higher rate of abuse. Workers may become frustrated with a resident who needs help performing tasks and become physically and verbally violent.

Studies also indicate that many nursing home residents with dementia are given anti-psychotics or are overmedicated with other drugs in order to keep them calm and quiet, even though they are never prescribed these medications. When care workers administer medication to residents who don’t have a medical need for the drugs, it is referred to as using a chemical restraint, according to a National Public Radio report. Extreme caution must be used when giving medication to elderly people, as their bodies cannot metabolize and eliminate drugs the same in their old age. Using chemical restraints is prohibited by federal law. Yet, some nursing home staff members continue to engage in this dangerous and abusive behavior, which could lead to serious injury or even death of a resident.

Dementia and abuse

Interestingly enough, many of the behavioral characteristics associated with dementia are also signs of abuse. The National Center on Elder Abuse reported that poor hygiene, malnourishment and bedsores are all warning signs of abuse. In addition, victims of abuse may become withdrawn, quiet and act fearful around others. Since people suffering from forms of dementia have trouble remembering events and communicating with others, they may have difficulties remembering the details of an abusive episode. These residents are much less likely to tell someone of the encounter. Abusers may also tell the victim that they will face negative repercussions if they tell anyone about the abusive incidents.

When families put their loved ones in the care of a nursing home, they expect that the staff at that facility will treat their loved one with care and respect. Nursing home staff members should be well-trained on how to handle people who suffer from dementia. Sadly, incidents of nursing home abuse still occur and as a result, many lives are affected. A Lake County nursing home abuse lawyer has helped people facing similar situations.

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