Has COVID-19 Increased the Risk of Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse was a serious public health problem well before COVID-19 hit the United States; however, the outbreak has only intensified the risk for seniors. With many states still maintaining social distancing and other limitations, much of the elderly population has had to face the ongoing pandemic in isolation and loneliness.
Seniors are at a higher risk of contracting coronavirus—in fact, 8 out of 10 of the fatalities that are related to COVID-19 in the United States have been adults who were aged 65 years and older. This has led to many nursing homes and assisted living facilities tightening restrictions for visitors. With family members and friends unable to see loved ones regularly, older adults may be at a greater risk of being abused in a residential setting.
Elder abuse affects about 1 in 10 older Americans. With the pandemic surging, it’s not difficult to imagine numbers will increase in the months ahead. Elder abuse happens when a person experiences physical, emotional, or financial harm by a caregiver or another trusted individual. If you or a loved one has experienced any form of elder abuse during COVID-19, the Law Office of Kyle W. Jones in Bakersfield is ready to help you move forward.
Abuse Risk Factors During COVID-19
It’s true that older adults who get regular visitors are less susceptible to abuse—but the pandemic has left many in our nation’s most vulnerable population isolated from their families. Social isolation is a known risk factor for elder abuse. With facilities limiting visitations, fewer people are coming and going. This means that fewer people are able to notice when seniors are being mistreated. Without periodic one-on-one visits, loved ones aren’t able to easily identify changes in behavior or health status.
Other risk factors for elder abuse include:
- Limited mobility: Seniors who are unable to get around on their own are more likely to be neglected by their caregivers. Those with limited mobility must be exercised regularly to improve their circulation and overall joint health. If they are restricted to a bed, they should be repositioned periodically to avoid putting too much pressure on the same area of the body. The increased pressure cuts off blood supply and can result in painful bed sores, which can become infected easily without proper monitoring.
- Reduced mental capacity: Seniors who are mentally incapacitated may not be able to tell others when they are being abused. This can make them easy targets for mistreatment by their caregivers, especially when their loved ones are unable to visit them as often as they used to.
- Increased staff-to-patient ratio: COVID-19 has presented unique challenges for residential facilities. When caregivers are exposed to the virus, the CDC recommends that they quarantine for 10 to 14 days before returning to work. While safety is paramount, having employees under quarantine also leaves facilities short-handed, which can increase the staff-to-patient ratio. Staff members who are overstressed are more likely to neglect or act out against a patient under their care.
How to Protect Against Elder Abuse During COVID-19
You may not be able to visit your elderly loved one as often as you would like to during the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean that there is nothing that you can do to protect them against abuse. Here are some things that you can do right from your own home.
- Call as often as you can. Calling frequently will show caregivers that the patient has someone who cares about them, even if you can’t be there every single day.
- Speak with the physician regularly. Discussing your loved one’s health status and medications on a regular basis can help you keep track of any changes. If you notice anything drastic, be sure to bring up your concerns.
- Monitor financial accounts. Elder financial abuse is quite common—with billions of dollars lost every year. You can protect your loved one by monitoring their checking and savings accounts and credit cards for unauthorized transactions. Having them set up a financial power of attorney can also help safeguard their finances.
- Encourage friendships. Most long-term care facilities will have multiple ways for residents to connect with each other onsite. This can be a lifeline when your visits are limited, so it is a good idea to encourage your loved one to get involved in community activities as much as possible. Doing so can help them build friendships and reduce their feelings of isolation during this challenging time.
Signs of Elder Abuse
Elder abuse can be difficult to expose if you are not around your loved one all the time. However, there are some signs you can look for to identify abuse or neglect, including:
- Unexplained physical injuries
- Extreme emotional changes
- Rapid weight loss from malnutrition
- Unsanitary living conditions
- Missing money or personal items
If you notice any of these signs, you should try talking with your loved one to find out what’s going on. If they seem reluctant to talk about it, then you should get help to uncover the truth.
What to Do If You Suspect Elder Abuse
Usually, elder abuse will not stop on its own. Many seniors are too afraid of retaliation to say anything, so it’s important for loved ones to step in if they notice any red flags that point to abuse. You should remove the elder from the situation and report the facility to your local Adult Protective Services. APS will provide the necessary resources to investigate the abuse in question. In urgent cases, call 911 right away for assistance.
Get Legal Help Today
Do you believe that your loved one has been a victim of elder abuse or neglect during COVID-19? The Law Office of Kyle W. Jones can help you put an end to the abuse. When you hire our law firm, we will work hard to make the responsible party accountable for their actions. Contact our office in Bakersfield today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an elder abuse lawyer.