Nursing home abuse and neglect are serious problems and can affect any senior. Often, those victimized by abuse or neglectful behavior are not able to speak out and take action on their own behalf to stop the behavior. Their loved ones - usually a spouse or children - are often the individuals who identify when abuse is occurring and take legal action. Family members of abuse victims may contact a nursing home neglect lawyer and appropriate legal authorities so an investigation can be launched and the nursing home held accountable.
The problem is there is an increasing number of "elder orphans." Family-Studies.org expressed concerns about these seniors with no family to watch over them in nursing homes. These seniors may be especially vulnerable to abuse or inadequate care and need to understand their own rights. Investigators and advocates should also be vigilant in preventing elder abuse among seniors with no family of their own.
Preventing Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Among "Elder Orphans"
While an orphan is generally defined as someone whose parents are no longer alive, the term means something different when referring to elder orphans. It is used to refer to someone who is single or widowed, who has no support system, and who either has no children or who has no children in the area. An elder orphan is a senior who is "both childless and friendless."
The number of people who classify as an elder orphan is increasingly dramatically and 1/4 of all Americans aged 65 and up are at risk of becoming "elder orphans." In the demographic group between the ages of 45 and 60, 1/3 of Americans are single, and more singles in this demographic group means there will be even more elder orphans in the coming years.
Elder orphans don't have family to care for them and end up in nursing homes in larger numbers. Once in a nursing home, they rarely get visitors. Some estimates suggest 60 percent of people living in a nursing home facility do not have anyone visit them.
With elder orphans more likely to be getting nursing home care and less likely to have people looking out for their interests, their risk of abuse is significantly greater and there options for stopping the abuse and taking action are reduced.
Encouraging community involvement is one possible way to protect these vulnerable seniors. Programs arrange for volunteers to visit nursing home residents, and volunteers could notice signs of abuse and also be a confidant who a senior could inform about abusive behavior. A national Caregiving Corps is one initiative encouraging intergenerational connections so seniors have more community support even if they don't have families. More frequent state inspections of nursing homes and stricter federal standards can help to identify safety violations and potential abuse in nursing home settings as well.
Elder orphans who do find themselves victimized by abuse should try to speak out and get legal help if they can to protect others in a similar situation. Those who have parents in nursing facilities can also help out not just their own parents but also other home residents by taking action if they suspect neglect or abuse is occurring.