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Alzheimer Patient Abuse Difficult to Detect

At a Georgia elder-care facility designed specifically for Alzheimer patients, nearly two dozen former employees are facing upwards of 70 criminal charges alleging cruelty to those for whom they were supposed to be caring.

Our Greenacres nursing home abuse lawyers were appalled to learn that this was not a matter of a few isolated incidents. We’re talking about a culture of systematic mistreatment, neglect and abuse toward people who did not have the ability to defend or speak out for themselves.

Some of the allegations include actions ranging from staffers throwing water on patients to in some cases physically striking them. A few staffers were alleged to have stolen from their patients.

Some patients were allegedly restrained with bedsheets. In other cases, staffers were alleged to have engaged in a practice known as “double-diapering.” This is where a staffer would put multiple diapers on a person so that the soiling wouldn’t soak through the outer layers of clothing, and staffers presumably wouldn’t have to change patients as often. Of course, such actions are not only undignified and inhumane, they could lead to serious infection or illness, particularly for someone who is elderly and whose immune system is already weakened.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigations reported that a number of patients were being cared for by individuals who had prior felony convictions. Prior staff crimes included identity theft and voluntary manslaughter.

In all, warrants have been issued for 21 current and former staffers, with specific charges including neglect, financial exploitation and cruelty to persons over the age of 65.

The owner of the facility is among those being charged.

This case is unquestionably horrific, both in terms of the alleged acts committed and also with regard to the fact that the abuse apparently went on for so long unchecked by administrators at this facility and state authorities.

In some ways, though, this latter fact is unsurprising. Patients who suffer from conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s are among the most vulnerable. They are often confused and many times uncommunicative. Even when they do have moments of clarity, their statements are likely to be brushed off as unreliable. And if it’s mentioned to one person, the patient may not be able to remember or repeat it later.

This makes catching and stopping these kinds of actions extremely difficult.

The Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse and Neglect at the University of California, Irvine, reports that elderly patients with dementia are at greater risk of abuse and neglect than the general elderly population.

It’s estimated that about 5.3 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease, with the vast majority of those over the age of 65. That number is expected to grow significantly as the baby boomer population ages, up to 7.7 million in 2030 and to 16 million by 2050.

The center reports that three international studies recorded overall abuse rates of people with dementia by caregivers somewhere in the range of 34 to 62 percent. A U.S. study revealed caregiver neglect and abuse of dementia patients hovered around 47 percent. Rates for verbal abuse were much higher, at about 60 percent. Fourteen percent of U.S. caregivers of dementia patients admitted to neglect.

Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Dozens Charged in Ga. Alzheimer’s Home Abuse Case, July 2, 2013, Staff Report, Associated Press

More Blog Entries:
Florida Nursing Home Negligence Results in State Fine, May 27, 2013, Greenacres Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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