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Is There a Solution to Growing Concerns Over Nursing Home Abuse?

Of all the vulnerable classes and people groups in society, the elderly are among the most helpless. They require care and assistance, often turning to nursing homes and senior care facilities to get the help they need. Maddeningly, these caregivers don't always live up to their responsibilities.

Reports Shed Light on Nursing Home Abuse

This past June marked the 14th annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. And despite the fact that more people and organizations have spoken up against this prevalent issue, it seems that most people are aloof to the idea that elder abuse – and nursing home abuse, in particular – are serious problems.

According to a recent study by the World Health Organization (WHO), up to 33 percent of older residents in residential care facilities report being abused within the previous 12 months. Shockingly, the study also revealed that 2 out of 3 staff members report abusing older residents.

In a separate report from the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions, findings were similar. The report also focused in on Europe's aging population, which is set to increase from 18.5 percent in 2015 to 30 percent by 2060. As these facilities become more crowded, it's reasonable to anticipate that cases of abuse will continue (and likely escalate).

While there are certainly care workers who intentionally abuse and take advantage of elderly residents in nursing home facilities, the majority of instances appear to stem from (a) a lack of education on how to properly care for residents, and/or (b) an inability to properly care for residents within tight budgetary constraints.

Abuse doesn't always look like physical aggression. In many cases, it involves verbal threats, emotional neglect, lack of medical support, and insufficient daily meals.

Discovering Effective Solutions

Identifying the fact that a problem exists is the easy part. What's not so simple is developing and implementing effective solutions. Elder abuse situations need to be prevented from the start, which requires a proactive approach to the matter.

The biggest obstacle is the balance of profitability and quality of care. As for-profit organizations, many nursing homes struggle with drawing the line between making cost-conscious decisions and doing what's ultimately best for the resident.

"While there is nothing illegal about making a profit by caring for people, a conflict arises when operators attempt to maximize profits by reducing the staffing levels and hiring inexperienced workers," Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers explains. "These cost-cutting measures impact patient care, often causing serious injuries and deaths."

In addition to maintaining adequate staffing levels and hiring experienced workers, nursing homes should attempt to develop more community within their facilities. For residents, less time spent alone in isolation and more time spent together socializing or doing activities is a good thing. It keeps the mind and body in better shape, which lowers the burden on overtaxed workers and produces a more positive environment.

Family members of individuals in nursing home facilities also play a significant role. While they don't need to shoulder the entire burden of their loved ones, they do need to be aware of what's happening. People should become more educated on the signs and symptoms of elder abuse so they can intervene when necessary. Frequent visits and checkups will reduce the likelihood of ongoing abuse.

It's also important to recognize that abuse isn't just physical or emotional. Financial abuse of elderly individuals is also quite prevalent.

As Forbes contributor Catherine Schnaubelt explains, "Financial abuse can take many forms, from soliciting for fake charities to telemarketing scams and identity theft. If you have elderly family members, understanding the warning signs of financial elder abuse and how to prevent it can help protect your loved ones from falling victim to these crimes."

Taking Nursing Home Abuse Prevention Worldwide

Nursing home abuse isn't specific to European nations. It's an equally critical issue in other parts of the world – including in the United States where 1 in 10 elderly individuals have experienced some form of abuse. And while 5 million American elders are abused each year just 1 in 14 cases are reported to authorities.

Nursing home abuse is a pressing problem from Europe to America and everywhere in between. The sooner proactive solutions are implemented, the faster we can reverse course on this troubling trend.

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