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What risk factors are associated with nursing home abuse?

Nursing homes serve an important role in our society. As our loved ones age and we become unable to adequately care for them, it is wonderful to find a place where they can receive the care and attention they need and deserve. Tragically, though, as was discussed last week, far too often elderly residents are subjected to neglect. Even those who manage to escape neglect may still be subjected to nursing home abuse, which can be just as harmful, if not more so. Therefore, we all must be diligent and work to end elder abuse and neglect.

When it comes to elder abuse, the National Center on Elder Abuse has identified three categories that pose a risk. The first category is facility risks. Studies have demonstrated that inadequate staffing and institutional indifference can foster situations where abuse can occur. Thus, nursing home staff need to be properly screened, staffed, and protected from overwhelming stress and burnout. The second category of risk involves residents themselves. Studies have illustrated that certain types of residents, particularly those with dementia, dependency, and unmet needs are more susceptible to elder abuse.

The third category of risk is relationship-based. If an elderly resident has a family that does not visit much, then he or she may be more likely to be abused because it is less likely to be discovered. On the other hand, even a family that visits often can be overbearing, preventing a loved one from receiving the treatment he or she needs. In these instances, nursing home neglect may come into play.

As you can see, there is a lot that can put our vulnerable loved ones at an unacceptable risk of harm. Some of the solutions to these risks are institutional based, but some can be handled on a personal level. Those who visit their loved ones in a nursing home should be sure to look for signs of abuse and neglect, and those who have been unjustly harmed should consider taking legal action.

Source: National Center on Elder Abuse, “Nursing Home Abuse Risk Prevention Profile and Checklist,” accessed on July 3, 2015

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