On any normal day, elder abuse is an under-reported crime. Whether at an elder’s home, hospital or clinic, or nursing home, is frequently unnoticed and unreported. This leaves the victims suffering in silence while suffering mistreatment.
Research estimates that one out of ten people over the age of 60 experience some form of abuse every year in the US. Family members are responsible for an estimated 60% of elder abuse, frequently through intimidation. During the pandemic, one estimate puts the rate at one out of five people.
Some elders fear retaliation if they report the mistreatment and abuse, while others are unable to communicate. Still, others may not understand the abuse due to cognitive disability.
Because of the medical community’s concerns over seniors in care facilities contracting and spreading COVID-19, new restrictions were implemented to protect them from infection. But these protections also had an unintended effect, and fears of increased elder abuse are being recorded.
One of the biggest issues for elders has been the absence of social contact. During the pandemic lockdowns, particularly in nursing homes, elders kept from their social networks have faced:
- Inadequate sleep or low quality of sleep
- Impaired immunity
- Less physical activity
- Impaired executive functioning
- Slower recovery from injury and illness
- Accelerated cognitive decline
- Increased risk of premature death
These run counter to recommendations from the WHO and other expert organizations for the health and wellbeing of older patients.
Another obstacle to social interaction is the inability of many elders to use technology. Although most people use FaceTime, Zoom Skype, and other online tools easily, many elders don’t understand how to use the technology or are even afraid of it. Fortunately, many caregivers in facilities began using their own smartphones to facilitate video calls for elders and their families.
But on their own, seniors are left unprotected against anyone in their environment who commits abuse on an elderly person.
Less Interactions With Others
When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down businesses, the quarantine also cut off access to their social network. Families, friends, attorneys, and others were no longer allowed to visit to avoid the possibility of transmitting the virus to them. This also increased the possibility of abuse. The very measures that were designed to protect the nation’s most vulnerable eventually increased the dangers to them.
The addition of closed senior centers and adult day care facilities put another burden on adults working from home and homeschooling while taking care of children during shelter-in-place. Now, adults had parents and children at home while trying to work their regular job. Those who had to go out to work such as first responders and retail workers may have been left without any care resources.
This lack of in-person contact also leaves elders vulnerable to abuses by caretakers, whether at home or in a nursing facility. When families cannot visit, caretakers become a “trusted other” by default. They may be the only human interaction an elderly person has at all. The required increase of social distancing means family members are unable to do a physical check on their loved ones, leaving them vulnerable.
Discrimination and disparaging comments about anyone over 50 are nothing new. Because COVID-19 has a higher risk of mortality for patients over 60, relevant media coverage has encouraged negative attitudes toward an already vulnerable age group. On social media, discrimination and stereotyping of elders fuels the negative views of elders, such as last year’s trending hashtag, #BoomerRemover.
This discriminatory attitude feeds over into the medical community. Doctors, nurses, medical students, and other healthcare professionals also absorb this ageist mindset, leading to consequences for older patients. Mental health providers and interns may also make assumptions about older patients, which can limit access to treatment and further functional decline in patients.
Where does this leave a vulnerable elder person? All of these risk factors, as well as others, mean an increased possibility of one or more types of abuse. Whether physical, mental, financial, verbal, or another type, it’s more important than ever to keep track of your family members to protect them from harm.
Chad Love—Charleston’s Leading Elder Abuse Attorney
If you suspect your loved one is being abused, you need a compassionate attorney who will fight for your loved one and the respect and dignity they are being denied. In addition to relentlessly fighting to prove that the abuse occurred, The Love Law Firm can help you obtain the compensation you and your loved one deserve for medical bills, pain and suffering, and more.
To defend and protect your loved ones from this heinous crime, contact attorney Chad Love today at (304) 344 5683 or use our online contact form to schedule a free consultation. We offer contingency fee arrangements for your convenience.