Nursing Home Abuse: A Public Health Crisis

Elder abuse is all too common in nursing homes and care facilities in Wisconsin and throughout the country. Unfortunately, this issue can be easy to ignore if it doesn’t immediately affect you or someone you love. 

But we can’t afford to ignore the problem any longer; elder abuse isn’t just something that happens in isolated incidents in nursing homes. It’s a widespread problem and a public health crisis. It’s something we need to deal with and try to fix. A Boller & Vaughan, we help victims who come to us for legal representation, but we’re also committed to shedding more light on this problem to enable others to see the signs and take action to stop it.

The growing population of seniors

A vast portion of the American population is growing older. According to the Administration for Community Living (ACL), the percentage of Americans age 65 and older has quadrupled since 1900. At the turn of the 20th century, 4.1 percent of the American population was over 64 years old. By 2019, that group accounted for 16 percent of the population. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2030 will be a momentous year in terms of the older population. By that year, every baby boomer will be older than 65. The Census Bureau predicts that older people (age 65 or above) will outnumber children (those under 19) by the year 2034.

Clearly, we can’t just ignore such a significant percentage of the population. We need to make sure we have the resources and structures in place to care for this growing number of older Americans. And part of that care plan must include measures to find and eliminate cases of elder abuse in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, care centers, and the community at large.

Elder abuse doesn’t just affect nursing home residents

The statistics on elder abuse in the U.S. are frightening. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), the number of older Americans abused every year may be as high as five million. Approximately one of out every 10 Americans over 59 years old has experienced some form of abuse, and that number may be inaccurately low; a study by the National Center on Elder Abuse indicates that only about one out of every 24 cases of abuse is reported to the authorities.

The perpetrators of elder abuse are often family members. However, there are many instances of neglect and abuse that occur in nursing homes. In these situations, the abuser may be a staff member, medical provider, or another resident. In many cases, the victims are unwilling or unable to report the abuse, and sometimes family members are unable to recognize the signs.

Effects on families

Nursing home abuse and neglect can have significant effects on family members. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), abuse can lead to early death, causing family members to experience grief and other psychological issues. Elder abuse can also have financial repercussions for family members who lose their inheritance or who need to cover unexpected medical bills or the cost of moving a loved one to a safer facility.

In cases when the abused individual feels too ashamed or afraid to report the abuse to their family members, those relatives may feel guilt that they didn’t recognize and stop the abuse. They may feel responsible for placing their loved one in a harmful environment. In short, nursing home abuse can have a severe negative effect on families.

Effects on local communities

When abuse and neglect happen in a nursing home, the entire local community can be affected. Residents experience shock and dismay that something horrible happened in their own “backyard.” 

News reports of nursing home abuse can cause local residents to become suspicious of all assisted living and nursing home facilities, endangering even those that are providing excellent care. Community resources may become strained if family members remove their loved ones from nursing homes and try to care for them at home.

Effects on society

Society as a whole suffers when elder abuse occurs. Nursing homes that allow abuse to continue unchecked become a haven for criminals and individuals looking for an opportunity to cause harm. Physical elder abuse places a strain on the medical community, potentially limiting the resources available to everyone else. 

Failing to see and stop elder abuse in nursing homes encourages more people to take advantage of our elderly population in care facilities and in the community at large. When we allow some of our most vulnerable citizens to be harmed, we create a darker, more dangerous world for future generations. 

Boller & Vaughan fight for nursing home abuse victims and their families

Nursing homes should be safe places for residents, giving them the specialized care that they need. Sadly, too many nursing homes in Wisconsin and throughout the U.S. shun this responsibility and allow their residents to be neglected or abused. These incidents don’t just affect the victims and their immediate family members; they are a public health crisis affecting everyone in our society.

At Boller & Vaughan, we understand the devastating impacts that nursing home abuse can have on individuals, families, and communities. Our team of nursing home abuse attorneys is dedicated to providing compassionate representation for Wisconsin victims and their families. If you suspect a loved one is being abused or neglected in their nursing home or care facility, call our Madison office at 608-268-0268 or contact us online.


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