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Alzheimer Patients Especially Vulnerable to Nursing Home Abuse, Neglect

A new study published in the journal Neurology found that Alzheimer deaths are vastly under-reported. Researchers calculated that some 500,000 people in the U.S. die from disease every year, which is five times more than the number tallied by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If true, that would make it the third leading cause of death among Americans.

What’s more, our Broward nursing home abuse lawyers recognize that this is a disease we are going to confront with increasing frequency in the coming decades. For one thing, the size of our elder population is growing rapidly as the baby boomer generation ages. For another, there is a heightened awareness about the disease, and therefore a greater level of diagnosis. While it is estimated that 5.3 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease today, that figure is expected to balloon to 7.7 million in 2030 and 16 million by 2050.

Contrary to common myth, neither Alzheimer’s disease nor any other form of dementia is a “normal” part of aging. The myth is perpetuated by the fact that so many people suffer from it. As relatives, close friends and loved ones, we are left not only to help oversee their care and comfort, but to shield them from those who might seek to exploit them.

People suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia are especially vulnerable to abuse, neglect and exploitation. A 2010 study titled “Screening for Abuse and Neglect of People With Dementia,” published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, found that as many as 60 percent of dementia patient caregivers had been verbally abusive with the patient at some point. Roughly 14 percent of caregivers conceded to being neglectful, and between 5 and 10 percent admitted to being physically abusive with a dementia patient.

There are a number of contributing factors. First, there is no question that both Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are conditions that result in behaviors that can be frustrating for caregivers. Still, there is never any excuse for abuse or neglect, and particularly in a nursing home-type setting, staffers are supposed to be trained with how to safely and appropriately handle someone coping with these complications.

Secondly, those who are suffering from afflictions that affect their cognitive ability are seen as easy targets. They often can’t defend themselves, physically or mentally, and they may lack capacity to even reveal to a loved one what is happening. But this does mean they are not harmed or do not suffer as a result of abuse and/or neglect.

The American Psychological Association reported in 2012 that an estimated 2.1 million older Americans are victims of some form of abuse or neglect. That same study indicated that for every report of abuse or neglect, there are five others that are never uncovered.

Frequently, it falls to family members to identify abuse and neglect of Alzheimer’s patients. Because the patients are frequently confused and often uncommunicative, it makes the task more difficult. Here are some warning signs:
–Bruises, broken bones, pressure marks and burns may signal abuse, neglect or mistreatment.
–Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities or an abrupt change in a person’s degree of alertness may indicate emotional abuse.
–Bruising or blood around the breasts or genital area may signal sexual abuse.
–Unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, bed sores or unusual weigh loss are strong indicators of neglect.
–Sudden changes in a person’s financial situation could indicate financial exploitation.

Serious concerns of abuse, neglect or mistreatment of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients should be discussed with an experienced nursing home abuse attorney.

Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
New policies needed to address the growing demands of Alzheimer’s disease, April 9, 2014, Staff Report, Medical News

Study Finds Fivefold Increase In Alzheimer’s Deaths: Why It Matters, March 7, 2014, By Nell Lake, Common Health Reform and Reality

More Blog Entries:
Florida Nursing Home Legislation Would Narrow Defendant List, April 1, 2014, Broward Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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