Elder Abuse: The Need for Communication
Caring for elderly family members is imperative, especially considering that many elders are unable to voice their grievances if they are being harmed. Many people reluctantly place elderly family members in assisted living facilities, prompted by monetary considerations or health issues, even though they prefer to care for their loved ones personally. That is why elder abuse is particularly troubling. According to a congressional report, serious physical, sexual, and verbal abuse occurs at nursing homes throughout the United States despite our best intentions in seeking the best care for those we cherish. Individuals who suffer mental illness, financial dependency, or substance abuse problems are particularly vulnerable to abuse.
What are the Signs of Elder Abuse?
It is critical to keep regular and consistent communication with family members even though we entrust their care to nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Remote communication through telephone calls, text messages, and emails can help identify potential issues like the emergence of harmful relationships with staff or other members of the facility. In-person visits identify other, more subtle issues that require visual examination, such as untreated bedsores, injuries from falling, malnutrition, dehydration, inadequate medical care, or improper sanitation. In New York, the most common form of mistreatment is actually psychological abuse. This can be difficult to uncover without regular communication.
Awareness of these potential issues is not enough. One of the prevalent issues that plague elder abuse victims is their lack of voice. According to a national elder abuse study, for every one case of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation, about five other cases are unreported. Even if we cannot visit our loved ones, they must still know that the channels of communication are open and available for them to voice their concerns about mistreatment. One study found that the incidence rate of elder abuse in New York was nearly 24 times greater than the number of cases referred to social services, law enforcement, or other legal authorities. In these situations, seeking legal advice can help remedy an ongoing problem.
What are Your Legal Rights?
It is important to seek legal counsel if you suspect that a loved one is the victim of elder abuse. A tort is a civil action that can be commenced to recompense a victim for the wrong inflicted by another. The most common type of tort action is negligence. Generally, the elements of a negligence lawsuit require that a plaintiff shoulder the burden of proving that the defendant owed a duty, the defendant breached that duty, and as a result of that breach, the plaintiff suffered a legally cognizable injury.
Claims for elder abuse can be filed against the individual tortfeasor or the entity charged with supervising the tortfeasor. Suit can also be commenced against another resident who is inflicting the harm. In fact, some studies show that nursing home residents not only face potential abuse from institutions and caregivers, but also from other residents. This abuse can range anywhere between unwanted entry into one’s room to physical, psychological, and sexual abuse.
If you believe that a loved one is the victim of abuse, seek legal counsel immediately. Contact an attorney for a free consultation regarding your rights. Moving a loved one to a new facility can be a costly endeavor – a settlement against the tortfeasor can help make the transition seamless and safe.