Elder Abuse in Dementia Patients

July 19, 2019

Dementia patients are at an increased risk of several forms of elder abuse. Because dementia patients experience memory loss and trouble with cognitive functions, they are often susceptible to physical, psychological, sexual and financial abuse and exploitation.

It’s important to understand the signs of elder abuse when you have a family member or loved one in a nursing facility, so you may take the appropriate legal steps to ensure their proper care and safety.

What is Dementia?

The leading cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, a condition where the brains neurons deteriorate leaving gaps in connectivity with each other. While there is no know specific cause for the onset of Alzheimer’s, it is believed that a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors lead to the disease. Alzheimer’s typically affects patients over the age of 65.

It is estimated that approximately 5.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s dementia, or one in 10 people over the age of 65. Almost two-thirds of Alzheimer’s patients are women and more than three-quarters are placed in a nursing home after the age of 80.

While dementia may start with a few small memory lapses, forgetting new information quickly, or difficulty completing routine tasks, the symptoms will increase in occurrence and severity. While some memory loss is normal with age, if these symptoms increase it may indicate the onset of dementia.

Types of Elder Abuse

Understanding the types of elder abuse may help you protect your loved one, by reporting the abuse and taking legal action. It’s important to hold the abusing party accountable so other patients don’t experience additional abuse.

Physical Abuse and Neglect

Physical abuse can be one of the most obvious forms of abuse, as patients will often exhibit physical signs of abuse. These signs include bruises, scratches, torn clothing, and even broken bones. Bedsores and infections can also be a sign of neglect.

Psychological and Emotional Abuse

Dementia patients are often the victim of verbal abuse, intimidation, and harassment from their caregivers. This type of abuse can cause severe emotional harm. Emotional abuse symptoms often include withdrawal and isolation, unexplained depression, and loss of interest in normal daily activities. 

Financial Abuse or Healthcare Fraud

One of the most common types of elder abuse is financially motivated. Because dementia patients are cognitively impaired, family members and caregivers may try to take advantage of them for financial gain. Examples could include nursing homes or other medical agencies improperly billing for services or a family member making personal withdrawals or utilizing credit cards. Sadly, financial abuse by family members is all-to-common.

Reporting Elder Abuse and Retaining Legal Representation

Understanding the symptoms of elder abuse is the first step to identifying the abuse. Because dementia may cause delusion or paranoia, many cases of elder abuse go unreported. Paying close attention to the signs and symptoms can help you ensure the safety of your loved one.

If you suspect that your loved one is the victim of elder abuse at their nursing home, you should document in detail the evidence and file a report with the nursing home. If the nursing home does not remedy the issue, you may wish to file a report with the Department of Health.

Proving elder abuse may be difficult, and the laws and regulations may be difficult to navigate while also trying to ensure your loved one’s safety. Legal representation is often the best course of action for resolving the situation and providing compensation for your loved one and your family. 
If you believe your loved one has been the victim of elder abuse, it’s important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible to understand your rights. Since 1984, the lawyers at Saladino & Schaaf have been working tirelessly to help elder abuse and personal injury victims put the pieces back together and get the justice they deserve. Contact us online or give us a call at 270-444-0406 for a free consultation.




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Elder Abuse in Dementia Patients




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