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Exploring the impact of dementia on elder abuse in nursing homes

On Behalf of | Dec 15, 2023 | Elder Abuse

Growing older often brings about changes in a person’s cognition and mental faculties, but the persistent forgetting of how to accomplish everyday tasks strays beyond the realm of normal aging. Any impairment in a person’s ability to remember, think, focus, reason logically or make sound decisions could be a sign of dementia.

Dementia is a broad term that refers to the kind of cognitive decline that can severely hamper an individual’s capacity to live a self-sufficient life. It is more common in people who are at least 65 years old. Because they need daily professional assistance, their families bring them to nursing homes. Elderly residents with dementia are more susceptible to nursing home abuse.

Why elderly residents with dementia are more susceptible to abuse

As a person’s cognitive abilities and mental processes decline, they can become more difficult to care for and are less likely to report abuse and neglect. Here are factors that can explain their heightened susceptibility to abuse:

  • Cognitive impairment: Their cognitive impairment can prevent them from understanding the abuse or communicating about it. They may not even remember the incidents and struggle to articulate them. The mistreatment can go unnoticed.
  • Behavioral changes: The behavioral changes associated with dementia can lead to stress among caregivers. Symptoms of dementia include agitation, aggression and wandering, which can be challenging to manage, especially for staff lacking adequate training or under high stress due to understaffing.
  • Social stigma: The misconceptions surrounding dementia can lead to discrimination and harassment. Nursing home staff may perceive these dementia patients as less than whole and give them less respect. They may think the resident is less than human and incapable of experiencing pain or distress, contributing to an environment where abuse is more probable.

Because of their dementia, they become targets of abuse when the staff should instead be giving them extra care and attention. What is worse is that they might not even know the abuse is happening to them. It could go on for years.

Acknowledging the problem and addressing it

The plight of dementia patients in nursing homes is a critical issue that calls for legal attention and action. It is illegal in California to physically, financially or emotionally abuse and neglect people who are 65 years old and above. By acknowledging the problem and implementing effective strategies, the most vulnerable elders can receive the care, dignity, and respect they deserve.