Recent Developments In Elder Abuse

February 18, 2016

As many as one in five nursing home patients are the victim of resident-on-resident abuse.

The nature of these incidents ranges from those that are merely annoying to ones that are life-threatening, and researchers in New York demonstrated that the abuse usually follows a pattern. If staff tolerates non-contact incidents, which nearly always happens, aggressive residents feel emboldened to physically assault fellow residents. Kicking, hitting, and biting are the most common forms of physical abuse, although extreme incidents, including resident-on-resident homicide, are certainly not unheard of.

The researchers also found that abusive environments shared some common traits, like undermanned staffs, crowded conditions that limit private space, and low-intensity rivalries and conflicts between residents that are allowed to simmer. This combination causes residents to feel “almost like they are prisoners” and act accordingly.

Elder Abuse Statistics

This issue is increasingly worse in an aging society, and observers predict that it will become even more acute in the next 20 to 40 years. Mostly because elder abuse is so seldom reported, the number of incidents is difficult to determine. But an educated guess is that one in five people over age 65 have experienced some form of elder abuse.

Furthermore, it is an unfortunate truth that many facilities in South Carolina are like the ones described in the above study. They are crowded with residents and understaffed, because the mostly for-profit companies that run them are eager to increase revenue and decrease expenses in every way possible. As a result, elder abuse is all too common in the Palmetto State. Some forms of mistreatment include:

  • Isolation: Many residents are kept away from friends and family, often due to a lack of staff to supervise people in open areas and sometimes as a form of punishment.
  • Physical Abuse: This mistreatment is either negligently inflicted, like bedsores that develop due to failure to turn a patient, or intentionally inflicted, such as a push or shove.
  • Financial Abuse: Some unscrupulous staff people steal money and valuables, while other facilities force residents to sign forms, including guardianship paperwork.
  • Sexual Abuse: Some residents are photographed in a semi-nude state while others are forced to watch pornography or witness sexual acts.

Many residents are very frail, either physically and/or mentally, so even a rather modest use of force can inflict serious emotional or physical injury.

Liability Issues

Respondeat superior, or employer liability, applies to negligently-inflicted mistreatment injuries and even some intentional torts, if they are committed on the employer’s behalf on any level whatsoever.

Since elder abuse incidents often shock the conscience, punitive damages may apply in some cases. In South Carolina, these additional damages are capped at three times the amount of compensatory damages, in most cases.

Compensatory damages normally include money for both economic and noneconomic losses.

An Attorney Who Fights for Victims

The most vulnerable members of society deserve special protection. For a free consultation with an aggressive personal injury attorney in Charleston, contact David Aylor Law Offices. Our goals are to win money and restore dignity.

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