Preventing Elder Abuse within Senior Living Facilities

For those with elderly family members or friends residing in assisted living or skilled nursing facilities, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the signs of elder abuse. Our elder law attorneys can provide resources and explain common types of abuse, including:

  • Physical
  • Psychological
  • Gross neglect
  • Financial exploitation Sexual abuse

While the facility’s staff is mainly responsible for these abuse cases, many result from resident-on-resident abuse. Abuse of senior residents is not the norm, but it is a problem. Each state has organizations in place to audit communities and ensure they’re meeting state requirements for quality care.

Seniors Most Likely Targeted

Not only does abuse persist, but the incidence of senior abuse is underreported. Typically, the resident who encounters abuse is 65 years or more, and the majority exhibit moderate cognitive impairment or are living with dementia. Because of their medical conditions, these seniors can’t communicate or report the abuse they experience, which continues unabated and without consequence.

Elder Abuse Awareness and Education

Raising awareness of abuse and educating family members, caregivers, and managers to look for signs of abuse daily is crucial. Signs of neglect and abuse include skin tears, multiple fractures, or long bone fractures, as well as a resident’s inability to explain bruises. Bruising of the chest or genital regions, sexually transmitted diseases, bloody discharge, and unusually stained underwear are signs of sexual abuse.

Medical neglect or abuse manifests itself both physically and psychologically. Symptoms include poor hygiene, unintended weight loss, and dehydration. Other symptoms are marked by: Suspicious wounds

  • Poor case management of medical conditions
  • Unmonitored prescription medications
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Social withdrawal

Contact an elder law attorney for advice and support if you suspect a problem.

Researching Senior Facilities

Certification and licensing verification, as well as criminal background checks, should be mandatory for all employees or volunteers working with residents. Individuals found guilty of any form of abuse or who have disciplinary action against their professional license should not be eligible for hire. All qualified new hires should be trained on the facility’s abuse prevention policy before working with residents, and continuing education about abuse should be mandatory. You can ask to see the abuse prevention policy and a list of educational courses supplied to employees.

Training should encompass all aspects of potential resident abuse, mistreatment, and neglect for all staff and volunteers. Topics should cover:

  • Ways to identify residents at risk
  • Recognizing the signs of abuse
  • How to properly report the violation without fear of reprisal
  • Understanding the Resident Bill of Rights

Staff should be trained to respond appropriately to difficult resident behaviors and recognize symptoms of caregiver burnout in themselves or other staff members.

Abuse Prevention Efforts

Prevention involves a range of procedures. Before a resident moves in, there should be an assessment made about their potential vulnerabilities. Continuing evaluations and documentation of any resident changes should be routine. Appraisals should include a review of the facility’s physical environment, the number of residents, and requirements to prevent admitting a predatory offender as a resident. These preventative strategies are guided by specific federal, state, and statutory requirements.

Incident Reporting

Reporting and response time are critical when abuse is alleged, particularly in the case of serious bodily injury. Generally, most state laws and statutes require a report to be filed within two hours of an incident. If injury is suspected, but abuse is not alleged, and there is no evidence of serious bodily harm, the general rule is to write a report within 24 hours. Reports are filed with the facility’s executive director, state authorities, and law enforcement. Families should always be notified of allegations or signs of abuse.

By employing these prevention techniques, focusing on policies and procedures, as well as ongoing educational training, senior care residences can minimize resident abuse and create a secure environment for aging loved ones. Managing abuse risk is a significant factor in successful senior living. If your loved one is in a senior living facility, be sure to understand their vulnerabilities and the policies and procedures in place to prevent abuse.

Getting Professional Guidance

Our elder law firm is dedicated to educating families about issues that affect seniors who may be experiencing declining health. We urge you to thoroughly check assisted living and nursing home facility environments, certifications, and policies. You and your family have the right to be protected from bad actors. No matter how reputable the facility is, consulting our elder law attorneys before admitting a loved one makes sense. Contact our office today at (954) 315-1169 to schedule a consultation.

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