Those experiencing dementia are at risk of many forms of elder abuse. Symptoms that include troubles with memory and other cognitive abilities can leave patients susceptible to physical, psychological and sexual abuse or financial exploitation.
A proper understanding of dementia and the rights of patients in nursing homes and care facilities can help you recognize the signs of abuse and take proper legal action to ensure your loved one is properly taken care of and treated with respect.
What is Dementia?
Alzheimer’s disease — a condition in which neurons in the brain begin deteriorating and lose connectivity with each other — is the leading cause of dementia. It is not known exactly what causes the onset of Alzheimer’s, but it is generally a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors, with the vast majority of those with dementia being over 65 years old.
The Alzheimer’s Association estimated in 2017 that 5.5 million Americans experienced Alzheimer’s dementia, meaning one in 10 people over the age of 65 has dementia. Nearly two-thirds are women. By the age of 80, three-fourths of those with this degenerative disease are admitted into a nursing home.
Dementia worsens over time, with initial symptoms that include forgetting new information quickly, difficulty completing routine tasks such as counting change or following a recipe, or not remembering where household items are placed. While minor instances of these lapses are normal and typically age-related, an increase in occurrence or severity can indicate the onset of dementia.
Types of Abuse
Those with dementia have a higher risk of being abused due to their mental and physical state. While there are frequent reports of abuse in nursing homes, it is also possible for dementia patients to be abused or taken advantage of by family members.
If your loved is experiencing dementia, it is important to remain aware of the common types of elder abuse in patients with dementia so you can report the abuse and even take legal action to hold the abusing party accountable.
Physical Abuse and Neglect
A dementia patient who has been a victim of physical abuse may exhibit bruises, scratches, torn clothing or even broken bones. Neglect can also be a form of abuse, if patients are not provided essential care such as treatment of infections or bedsores.
Psychological and Emotional Abuse
If a caregiver verbally abuses, intimidates or harasses a dementia patient, the patient may experience severe emotional distress. Be watchful for signs of emotional abuse, such as your loved one showing unexplained depression or withdrawing from their normal activities.
Financial Abuse or Healthcare Fraud
Because of the impaired cognitive abilities of dementia patients, family members or caregivers may attempt to take advantage of them for financial gain. Examples could include improper billing for the services provided by a nursing home or a family member making unwarranted withdrawals from financial accounts.
How to Report Abuse of Dementia Patients
One of the difficulties in determining abuse of dementia patients is that dementia can also cause delusion or paranoia. This means family members are often left balancing the claims of each party involved and wanting to do what is best for their loved one while also understanding dementia impairs judgement and memory.
It is important to pay close attention, so you can identify abuse and neglect. Only a small percentage of abuse and crimes committed against the elderly are reported.
If you believe your loved one is being abused at their nursing home facility, file a report with the facility after documenting in detail the evidence of abuse and the date you have contacted the facility. If the issue is not resolved through the nursing home, you can file a report with the Department of Health.
Obtaining Legal Representation
The laws and regulations surrounding nursing home and elder abuse are complex and difficult to navigate while you are dealing with the unsettling circumstances of your loved one’s mistreatment.
Often instances of abuse toward dementia patients are best handled by legal representation who understands the territory and will fight to resolve your situation and provide you and your family any compensation you deserve.
You can arrange a consultation with Dansky | Katz | Ringold | York, where we’ll get to know you and your situation and discuss the potential of filing a case. You can also call our toll-free number at 800-609-5755.