Imagine being dependent upon another person for all your basic needs. Without that person, you couldn’t get dressed, bathe yourself, prepare a meal, take medicine, go to the bathroom or even roll over in bed.
Now, imagine the person that’s supposed to help you often “ doesn’t feel like” helping you. Or frequently forgets about you. Or simply ignores you. And you’re forced to stay soiled, hungry, unmedicated and uncomfortable until that person decides otherwise.
It’s unthinkable, isn’t it? Nevertheless, this is happening every day to thousands of elderly people in private homes, skilled nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and even some hospitals across America.
Elder neglect is a serious problem in this country. It comprises about half of the 500,000 reported cases of elder abuse each year, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse. But even this figure doesn’t tell the whole story. The Senate Special Committee on Aging has estimated that as many as five million elders are being abused and neglected by their caregivers, but are too afraid, isolated, ashamed or sick to speak out.
If you suspect an elder is being neglected, seek help immediately. Neglect can have grave health consequences for the elderly, whose fragile systems make them more susceptible to severe infections, heart damage, renal failure and other problems. Without prompt intervention, neglect can lead to an elder’s premature death.
What Constitutes Elder Neglect?
Elder neglect occurs when a caregiver refuses or fails to provide an elder with basic life needs, including: food, water, shelter, clothing, personal safety, personal hygiene products, medicine/medical treatment, or heat or air-conditioning, as appropriate.
Elderly Neglect Signs
Signs of elder neglect can be easily mistaken for symptoms of dementia or declining physical health – and may be deceptively characterized as such by neglectful caregivers. If you observe any of the following signs in an elderly loved one, seriously consider the possibility that he or she is being neglected:
- Malnourished appearance/dramatic weight loss
- Untreated physical problems (bedsores, infections, broken bones, etc.)
- Soiled clothes or clothing inappropriate for the weather
- Urine or fecal smell
- Poor personal hygiene and ungroomed appearance
- Unusual withdrawal or lack of communication
- Elder reports neglectful behavior of caregiver
What you should do if an elder is being neglected
If you believe a neglected elder is in imminent or life-threatening danger, you should call 911 or the police as soon as possible.
- For neglect suspected in private homes, report the signs of neglect to Adult Protective Services (APS) in your county (call 1-800-510-2020).
- For neglect in long-term care facilities in California, report suspicions to your local long-term care ombudsman (call 1-800-231-4024).
Contact an Elder Neglect Attorney
Once your loved one is out of immediate danger and has received proper medical attention, contact an elder neglect attorney. An experienced attorney can help gather evidence and assess whether the signs of neglect are due to a lack of care or due to the infirmities of advanced age. If neglect is the likely cause, your loved one may be entitled to financial damages.
The elder abuse and neglect lawyers at the Appel Law Firm LLP are dedicated to helping elderly victims who have been neglected in nursing homes, institutions, hospitals and other long-term care facilities throughout California.