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What is considered nursing home abuse?

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, the fastest growing segment of the population is those 85 and older, and, by 2050, over 20% of the population will be composed of those 65 and older. While these numbers are certain to affect everything from healthcare to how our country cares for its poor and elderly, one number is unfortunately likely to rise as well: the number of elders abused.

Elder abuse is defined as "intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable elder by a caregiver or other person who stands in a trust relationship to the elder." This definition applies to nursing homes, as well as relatives, or strangers and includes actions, such as not protecting the elder from harm or providing their basic needs.

Nursing home neglect can be primarily broken down into four broad categories. One of the more nuanced types is emotional or social neglect, which can include everything from verbal threats and harassment to isolating the elder. One of the most common types of abuse comes in the form of neglect where a caregiver fails to provide for an elder's basic needs, including hygiene and medical care. The third category is comprised of any sexual assault or abuse. The final category involves any kind of physical abuse from pushing and slapping to burning. These four categories do not exclude financial exploitation, physical and sexual abuse and healthcare fraud.

The number of elder and nursing home abuse cases in the United States is unknown as it is believed that a vast majority of case go unreported. Many times, this is because the abuser is a family member or the elder fears retaliation for reporting the behavior.

This article is intended to give a broad overview of the topic discussed. It should not be taken or used as specific legal advice.

Source: NCEA.aoa.gov, "Statistics/Data," accessed on Aug. 11, 2014

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