Nursing home abuse may be underreported

A recent poll revealed that 23 of every 1,000 New York senior citizens has suffered from physical or sexual abuse while living in a care facility, and that the number of older New Yorkers who have been financially exploited is even higher. The numbers may seem astounding, but some experts believe the actual number may be higher.

Elder care experts have had a difficult time establishing accurate estimates of nursing home abuse and elder abuse rates. Some university researchers suggest that more than 250,000 of the state’s seniors were physically, emotionally, or financially abused in 2011.

A national study indicated that nearly 17 percent of the workers in nursing homes admit to abusing their patients in some manner or another. Subsequent studies, however, have found that this number may be as high as 50 percent. Many of the care providers that did not admit to abuse admitted to neglecting their patients. More than two-thirds of those surveyed said they had neglected their patients at some point during the last twelve months.

The executive director of a center for aging says that many cases of abuse are not reported because the victim may be unable to file a complaint, and nursing home employees may be afraid that they will lose their jobs if they come forward.

As a result, family members are often the people who ensure that their loved ones are not abused or neglected in nursing homes. One state representative notes that elder abuse is one area where governments have traditionally failed to be involved enough. The watchful eyes of family members may still be the best way to prevent loved ones from being abused and to spot abuse when it does happen.

Source: Glen Falls Post-Star, “Abuse may be common, but often hard to quantify,” Jon Alexander, May 18, 2013