Nursing home abuse

Coronavirus Isolation May Heighten Risk for Elder Abuse

May 13, 2020 by James McHugh, Jr.
Elderly citizen hands

The coronavirus pandemic has revealed a plethora of societal problems ranging from economic issues to mental health, all signaling the need to delve deeper into the causes of these widely felt issues. Many are forced to stay in confined spaces with abuses under mandated shelter-in-place orders that have taken effect across the country. For the vulnerable elderly who are dependent upon caregivers, the prolonged isolation necessitated by COVID-19 can be more detrimental to their health and wellbeing than ever before.

Under Reporting

Across several states, domestic and elderly abuse calls have drastically declined. While this may sound like a benefit of the pandemic, it actually represents the terrifying reality that many victims of abuse are unable to speak out and report their abuse due to current circumstances. For those who live with their abuser, isolation and detachment from outside visitors can facilitate the abuse and create an even more hostile environment in which the victim is voiceless. Additionally, the lack of visitation from outsiders likely lessens the victim’s ability to communicate their abuse to others. Oftentimes it is outsiders who report allegations of abuse, but without access to their loved ones, they are unable to report suspicious behavior. Abuse is also not always physical; and, many elderly are taken advantage of in nursing homes or via at-home care, especially so during isolation.

Types of Abuse

Abuse is not always physical, and all forms of abuse can greatly impact a person’s life in more ways than one. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about one out of every 10 adults over the age of 60 experience some form of abuse. The following types of abuse are unfortunately prevalent for elderly and incapacitated adults reliant on caregivers:

  • Physical Abuse: Physical abuse occurs when an abuser physically hurts a victim.
  • Emotional Abuse: Emotional or psychological abuse occurs when caregivers verbally assault victims or use threatening language to coerce them into doing what they say. Additionally, abusers usually refrain from using such language around victims’ loved ones.
  • Financial Abuse: Financial abuse occurs when a victim’s possessions or money are stolen. This can involve stealing items from a home, stolen Social Security, pension, or retirement benefits; and, unlawfully changing names on a will, insurance policy, or banking information. This abuse is not only illegal and hurts the victim, but also destroys a person’s legacy and wishes for their loved ones.
  • Sexual Abuse: Sexual assault and abuse include forcing victims to watch or be a part of any sexual or lude act. These physical violations are unfortunately common in nursing homes and extended care facilities. Victims are often under heavy medication and/or unable to physically speak out or stop the abuse.
  • Neglect: Neglect is a common form of abuse that can be found rampant in nursing homes and can lead to serious medical illness or death. Caregivers who do not follow health and safety protocols with patients, including failing to change bed linens or clothing, hygiene issues, medical issues, and more, cause the victim to suffer.
  • Abandonment: Similar to neglect, caregivers who abandon patients put vulnerable lives at risk, especially for those who depend on a caregiver for day-to-day life tasks.
  • Health Care: Elderly citizens rely heavily on medical care, especially those with preexisting conditions. During the time of COVID-19, it is especially crucial for the elderly to maintain their health. Abusers who steal victims’ prescriptions, withhold medicine, sell medicine, or knowingly administer incorrect medication dosages knowingly put their patients in danger of serious harm.

What Can Be Done?

Now more than ever it is important to call and communicate with the elders in our lives. A simple checkup can save a life. Signs that could indicate abuse include but are not limited to:

  • Sudden or drastic weight loss/gain
  • Unexplained bruises, burns, or scarring
  • Displays of traumatic responses (ex: rocking back and forth)
  • Withdrawn behavior
  • Agitated, irritated, or angry behavior
  • Disheveled appearance
  • Lack of hygiene
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Depression and/or anxiety

Philadelphia Elderly Abuse Attorneys

It is a sad reality that caregivers take advantage of those who trust them most. No person should ever have to endure any form of abuse; especially not those who are most vulnerable and struggle to defend themselves. If you or a loved one has been a victim of elder abuse, you may be entitled to compensation. There is limited time to act, so don’t delay in contacting the nursing home malpractice lawyers of Lopez McHugh.

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