Recently in a suburban Midwestern city, a resident of an assisted living center had been dead for two days before she was found. No staff member had performed the required daily room checks. Three years ago, a nursing home assistant in Colorado was sentenced to prison for sexually assaulting two women under his care. And throughout the country, hundreds of incidents of theft from nursing home patients' rooms have led to the advent of "granny cams" - hidden cameras installed in rooms to catch thieves red-handed.
Elder abuse - including physical beatings and psychological taunting - happens in nursing homes. There's no doubt about that. Last year, a government audit disclosed that 25 percent of possible sexual and physical abuse against nursing home patients went unreported to authorities. Roughly 80 percent of the unreported incidents involved suspected sexual abuse.
Types of elder abuse
America has an estimated 1.4 million people living in nursing homes, providing plenty of opportunity for abusers to take advantage of vulnerable seniors who may be physically or mentally incapacitated. The basic types of elder abuse are:
Most incidents of nursing home abuse, however, go undetected due to missed signs. Are there bruises and bedsores present on the resident? Is he or she showing sudden signs of anxiety around certain nursing home staff members? Are items, money and mementos suddenly missing from the room?
If you are considering placing a loved one in a nursing home or assisted living center, please thoroughly research each facility. Visit the locations, ask plenty of questions, observe how the staff works with residents as well as how administration works with the staff. Find out what type of training the staff has, and what guidelines are in place to ensure the safety of residents.
And always take seriously the claims of your loved ones if they say they are being abused.