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It’s estimated that two-thirds of nursing home residents in the US have Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive diseases such as dementia, with many nursing homes specializing in offering further care for residents with cognitive impairments. Unfortunately, even with specialized homes being widely available, residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s are at greater risk of abuse or neglect in homes because they cannot speak up and make decisions for themselves.

If your loved one has Alzheimer’s and lives in a nursing home, it’s important to understand the potential risk of abuse, how to recognize the signs, and when it’s time to speak up for them.

Why are residents with Alzheimer’s or dementia at risk of abuse?

Some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease is difficulty remembering, altered behavior, and impaired ability to speak. Dementia isn’t the name of a specific disease, rather, it’s used to describe the symptoms relating to memory loss and cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia.

Often, it’s because of these symptoms and the inability to speak out that makes them most vulnerable to being abused by people who may work or care for them every day. Residents with dementia often can’t communicate or even remember if they have been harmed, which means:

  • Abusers are much less likely to be caught.
  • Residents are less likely to be believed 
  • Residents may be too afraid of their abusers to speak up
  • Knowing that someone with dementia cannot identify their abuser or remember the abuse means their family members need to be aware of the signs of neglect and abuse.

Neglect of residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia

Neglect of someone with Alzheimer’s can take different forms and whilst every case of neglect is unique, some of the signs family members can look out for are similar. If you suspect something isn’t right, some signs to look for include checking their basic needs are being met when you visit. Are they living in a clean, safe environment with clean clothes on? If you’re able to stay around a mealtime, are they being fed well? Do they have access to fluids and are they being monitored regularly when eating and drinking.

Neglect can also be medically-based too, with medicine being forgotten or over-prescribed, injures not cared for or bed sores developing due to a lack of movement or general care. As many people with Alzheimer’s and dementia develop mobility issues, they’re at higher risk of developing bedsores.

Being left alone for long periods of time or being treated without respect and kindness are also forms of emotional neglect. Dementia affects mood and behavior, so watch for any emotional changes that may not be related to their condition.

Signs of abuse to look out for

Alzheimer’s and dementia patients may also be more susceptible to:

  • Physical abuse such as unexplained injuries, bruising or broken bones
  • Unnecessary use of restraints.
  • Sexual abuse such as bruising on private areas of the body, sexually transmitted infections, vaginal or anal bleeding
  • Emotional abuse such as yelling or humiliation
  • Financial abuse such as missing items from your loved one’s living quarters or unexplained changes in their financial statements

How to report suspected abuse

Someone with Alzheimer’s disease may not be able to speak up, but you can file a report on their behalf. If you suspect your loved one is a victim of abuse or neglect, make a report with:

  • Facility administration. Facility administrators are the leaders of a nursing home who are responsible for overseeing the health and safety of all residents. When you suspect abuse, tell the nursing home’s administration so an investigation can be conducted.
  • State agencies. Arizona nursing homes are required to report cases of abuse to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Unfortunately, some facilities fail to adhere to reporting requirements
  • Arizona Department of Health Services. The state agency is obligated to investigate all abuse complaints. The ADHS will investigate, determine the severity of the problem, and outline corrections for the facility. 

Of course, you can always call 911 and have local law enforcement intervene which can be especially important if your loved one requires immediate medical treatment for physical or sexual abuse.

How to file an abuse case

Finding an experienced lawyer is the first step in filing an abuse case against a nursing home and by choosing a lawyer who has previously represented people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, your family can be assured they’ll know what to do, guiding you through the entire process.

When the victim of abuse can’t speak for themselves, a family member can usually sue on their behalf by becoming their legal representative or have power of attorney. Power of attorney allows that person to make decisions on behalf of their loved one and can be designated as springing or durable. Springing power of attorney gives you the authority to make decisions on someone’s behalf once they become incapacitated whereas durable power of attorney is effective immediately.

Selecting an attorney experienced in nursing home cases will help you through the process. Why not speak to our team today and find out how we could help your family. 

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