Essays On Abuse In Nursing Homes

“Every year an estimated 5 million older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation. And that’s only part of the picture: Experts believe that for every case of elder abuse or neglect reported, as many as 23 cases go unreported” (“World Elder Abuse Awareness Day”). The issue of elderly abuse is a growing topic in our country because it violates three specific articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Elderly abuse and neglect is an increasing age discrimination issue in the United States and violates the human rights to an adequate standard of living, equal protection under the law, and the right to be free from degrading treatment.

The often neglectful and abusive caregivers take advantage of the elderly’s decreasing mental and physiological state while in nursing homes. Most of the elderly start showing signs of dementia, a term used to describe a lack of mental ability, as early as the age of fifty. It affects the way individuals can comprehend information and express themselves. Most of the elderly that are being abused have some form of dementia. California’s Department of Public Health proved this exploitation to be true with dementia patients, “The same month that Shepter died, a nurse told state officials that staffers were using potent antipsychotic drugs to “chemically restrain” residents with dementia, which can cause unruly and erratic behavior. Her complaint prompted the California Department of Public Health to cite the nursing home for unnecessarily doping 23 seniors and led to the federal fine” (Lee and Thompson). The caregivers of the victims may not feel that the elderly diagnosed with any type of dementia can effectively communicate their abuse to family or loved ones, making it easier to manipulate them. This is violating the right to an adequate standard of living because these people were being drugged in the nursing home which they considered home. The residents no longer felt safe in their living space and this is taking away the human right established in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In a study by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, Dr. Harruff evaluated this correlation, “In an elderly individual, invariably there’s a combination of processes — if there’s neglect, there’s usually disease and neglect,” he said. For patients in nursing homes, sores can mean that staffers aren’t turning or moving them enough, a serious violation of accepted standards of health care. Federal data show that more than 7 percent of long-term nursing-home residents have pressure ulcers” (Lee and Thompson). If the elderly were able to defend themselves and express this abuse to others effectively, caregivers would not treat them this way because they know that they are inadequately providing care and this is illegal.The Alzheimer’s Association also recognizes that dementia can affect communication, “People with dementia are especially vulnerable because the disease may prevent them from reporting the abuse or recognizing it. They also may fall prey to strangers who take advantage of their cognitive impairment” (“Abuse | Caregiver Center | Alzheimer’s Association”). The vulnerability of the elderly is one of the main reasons why they seem to be neglected and abused, especially in the privacy of their nursing homes. The United States is known to have a high standard of living, compared to other countries, where everyone feels safe and secure. When families make the decision to put their elderly mother or father in a nursing home here in America, they should not have to worry about if they are living adequately in a clean environment, with options to move around, without being restrained by hallucinogenic drugs. When caregivers abuse the elderly in nursing homes because of their mental state, they are violating the human right to an adequate standard of living.

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Violence against the elderly occurs because most cases and deaths go unreported or uninvestigated by authorities. Some facilities across the nation write off a large amount of senior citizens’ death as simply old age, but there are significant acts of violence contributing to these cases. Elderly death investigations are not taken very seriously according to The Center of Investigative Reporting, “California regulators routinely have conducted cursory and indifferent investigations into suspected violence and misconduct committed by hundreds of nursing assistants and in-home health aides – putting the elderly, sick and disabled at risk over the past decade” (Gabrielson). Cases like this are violating the human right to equal protection under the law. Even though there is a greater chance of someone with older age to die, their deaths should still be handled with special attention and care. Americans should never die without a full investigation to conclude a valid cause of death. The authorities should treat these autopsies the same as if a middle aged woman or an active college student were to mysteriously die. A local South Carolina newspaper reported that there has been a significant drop in the autopsies of the elderly, “Senior citizens-even those who die unattended or under unnatural circumstances- are least likely to be autopsied. Here in North Carolina, their bodies are also the most likely to go unviewed by our local medical examiners, data show. Advocates for the elderly fear that less thorough death investigations mean more crimes against some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens” (“Interactive: Fewer Autopsies for Elderly”). In most states, unexplained deaths are required to have an autopsy performed. When medical examiners do not take the time to thoroughly look for a cause of death, which is likely to be some type of abuse or neglect, they are not equally protecting the elderly under the law. Professionals seem to wrongfully make blanket assumptions about the elderly’s cause of death, “Coroners will say, ‘We don’t have enough money to autopsy every old person who dies,'” said Dr. Laura Mosqueda, a professor of geriatrics at the University of California, Irvine, and co-director of the Orange County Elder Abuse Forensic Center. The problem, she said, “is that coroners around the country are using the fact that they can’t autopsy all older people who die as an excuse not to autopsy any older person who dies” (Lee and Thompson). The United States of America is the richest country in the world and financial circumstances should never get in the way of equally protecting a group of people under the law.  Everyone has this right and age should not be a factor in determining if a dead body is worth evaluating or not.

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