Alzheimer disease affects elderly people over the age of 65. It’s a common form of dementia and affects the patient’s cognitive abilities. Currently, there are around five million people living with the disease in America. Due to memory loss and inability to communicate properly, Alzheimer patients have become the main target for abusers. Patients could face abuse from their family members or from personal or nursing home caretakers.
There are several types of abuse, here are the most common:
- Physical abuse
- Emotional Abuse
- Financial Abuse
- Sexual Abuse
- Deprivation of Necessary Needs
Family members could become the abusers unintentionally because they are not ready or can’t handle the difficulty of taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Often times, family members might not realize they are affecting their loved one because they don’t have the experience to provide the right care and end up neglecting the person with Alzheimer’s.
Caretakers end up becoming the abusers because of frustrations with their job including low pay for difficult work. They could become resentful and eventually take those feelings out on their patients. Some experts say patients have a higher risk of being abused while living at home compared to living at a nursing home. This is because staff at the facilities have been trained to deal with hard situations and patients who have more problems than others. They also have more team on staff that is watching over them and could catch unusual treatment. Leaving your loved one at home with a caretaker is more dangerous because they are alone with no one else overseeing the caretaker’s work.
Having one sign of abuse may not indicate that the patient is being treated badly, it’s important to understand each sign and find more than just one. The Alzheimer’s Association has identified these signs of abuse:
- Bruising- This includes, pressure marks, broken bones, cuts or burns. All these could point to physical abuse or mistreatment.
- Changes in Behavior- No longer wanting to do normal activities, unexpected depression, or changes in alertness. All of these signs could point to emotional abuse.
- Unexplained Financial problems- If bills are not getting paid or money is lost. These could be signs of exploitation, either by a family member or a caretaker.
- Rapidly Developing health problems
- Bedsores- Unattended medical necessities, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss. This could point to neglect, the patient may not be getting the attention they need.
- Belittling- Overpower from spouses or other family members, this may indicate emotional or verbal abuse.
- Signs of Aggression- A patient could begin to become more aggressive or become more hostile once the disease progresses.
You could also look for signs of neglect at a nursing home. Oakland personal injury lawyers at Winer, Mckenna & Burritt say you should look for unkempt living areas, check if beds or clothes are soiled, floors appear dirty as well as rooms, hallways look cluttered and if patient seem dehydrated and suffer from malnutrition, these are all signs of neglect at a nursing home that may be easily overseen if the patient is rarely visited.
Many patients forget about the abuse can still show the emotional or physical side effects of being abused. In order to prevent these cases, it’s important for families to visit their family members often so that these signs don’t go unnoticed. Even if a loved one is living at a family member’s home it’s important that other people come visit. That way, if a family member is in need of help, or not meeting the necessary needs of a patient, someone else can step in.
Financial abuse is a common form of abuse from a family member. According to a study conducted by the Alzheimer’s Society families are frequent perpetrators because they have access to bank accounts, assets, and other valuables. The study also found that 15% of patients were victims of financial abuse, meanwhile, 62% of caregivers reported that their patient had been approached by a cold-caller or door-to-door salesperson.
Being aware of all of these signs and keeping an eye out could prevent future abuse from continuing. If you found it happened during the care of a nurse or a caretaker, there are legal actions you can take. I spoke to John Winer a sexual abuse and harassment attorney in Oakland, California and he answered the most common question from family members who are looking to speak to a lawyer or aren’t sure what to do after finding out their loved one was abused.
- What steps should I take after finding out my loved one was abused? The first step should be to make sure that he/she is psychologically safe. Do not delay psychotherapy in almost all situations and hospitalization if necessary.
- When Should I Reach out to an attorney? As soon as possible. There are many different statute of limitations that apply to abuse cases, and some, against public entities, can be as short as 6 months, others can be as long as three years from discovery of injury from the abuse. However, you don’t want the statute of limitations to run while you are considering whether to move forward with a case or not. You can always make that decision while or after consulting with an attorney. An attorney will be able to inform you as to whether you have a good case or not and the potential statute of limitations that apply to your case. Unfortunately, since it sometimes takes years for abuse victims to come forward, it may already be too late, but you won’t know for sure without a legal consultation.
- What do I do if a family member is responsible for abuse? There are many situations in which a family member abuses another family member. How you handle the situation will depend on the family dynamics. You should seek help from a professional who can facilitate the situation.
- What Damages are included in an elder abuse lawsuit? If the elder is still alive, he or she can recover past and future medical expenses which would include increased care expenses, past and future wage loss if there is any, and damages for past and future pain and suffering. The elder can also be awarded punitive damages if the misconduct is severe enough. If the elder has died, their surviving family are entitled to recover all of the above damages plus damages resulting from the loss of social care and comfort which would have been provided to them by the elder. Further, plaintiffs are entitled to attorney’s fees.
Stephanie Murguia is a Health and Consumer Safety blogger. She holds a Journalism Degree from California State University Northridge. Twitter: @s_murg