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Bangor & Augusta, Maine

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Don Briggs
Don Briggs
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Nursing Home Abuse and Financial Exploitation of Elderly is a Serious Problem in Maine

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Retirement is supposed to be the reward for a long life of hard work, but for many Maine seniors, the golden years are being stolen away by caregiver neglect, physical abuse, and financial exploitation. Whether the abuse happens in nursing homes or is inflicted by the victims own family, it’s becoming a big problem in the United States and Maine is no exception.

Retirement is supposed to be the reward for a long life of hard work, but for many Maine seniors, the golden years are being stolen away by caregiver neglect, physical abuse, and financial exploitation. Whether the abuse happens in nursing homes or is inflicted by the victims only family, it’s becoming a big problem in the United States and Maine is no exception.

According to the Maine Office of Elder Services, elder abuse often goes unreported because it is difficult to detect, and the elderly often are not in a position to advocate for themselves. In Maine, although the number of reported cases is around 2,200 a year, the Attorney General’s Office estimates the number is probably closer to 14,000.

A few examples of reported cases of elderly abuse in Maine include:
• 95 year old woman, nursing home resident, physically and sexually abused by son-in-law and grandson during visits.
• 37 year old man, boarding home resident, kicked in groin and stabbed with a paring knife by another resident.
• 35 year old man with mental illness, involved in a series of violent outbursts toward other patients, including dislocating the shoulder of an elderly patient.
• 101 year old woman, nursing home resident, slapped by C.N.A. resulting in serious facial bruises.

A few more cases, as reported in an article published in the Kennebec Journal Morning Sentinel:
• An 88-year-old woman bilked out of thousands of dollars by her nieces.
• A 78-year-old disabled woman locked inside a room and fed only crackers and yogurt.

Whether the abuse be financial or physical, committed by family members or nursing home staff, elder abuse is finally starting to get some attention in Maine. An Editorial published by the Portland Press Herald states that “Maine’s elderly suffer from physical abuse, neglect, and exploitation. The physical abuse overlaps the psychological abuse. Some caregivers threaten to withhold medication, for instance, until they get what they want from the elder in their charge.”

Another Maine Sunday Telegram article calls elder abuse a “serious problem” in Maine, explaining that “an abused senior typically does not want to report the abuse for fear of retribution, embarrassment, isolation and not knowing where to go to get help”.

WARNING SIGNS
Because the elderly themselves are unlikely to report the abuse, it’s essential that neighbors, family members, and friends learn to look for warning signs that something could be wrong. The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that 5 million seniors are victims of abuse each year and lists these tell tale signs to be on the lookout for:
* Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment.
* Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
* Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
* Sudden changes in financial situations may be the result of exploitation.
* Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect.
* Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.
* Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly are also signs.

Elder abuse hasn’t gotten as much attention as child abuse, and because of this, they are perhaps even more vulnerable than children to neglect and exploitation. Just as society worries about the rights of children, we owe it to the elderly to make sure their rights and dignity are protected during this stage of their life.

For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Nursing Home and Elder Abuse.