When we age, we begin to experience the obvious signs of decline such as stiff and aching joints, arthritis, high cholesterol, fatty liver, poor vision, and slow reaction times. But one of the most feared conditions is Alzheimer, a form of dementia. And for residents in nursing homes who are suffering from dementia, they are the most vulnerable to physical and financial abuse.
No one really knows what brings on dementia or Alzheimer unless you played in the NFL or had a career as a pro boxer and suffered numerous concussions. It is a disease that significantly impairs cognitive functions. Obvious signs are short-term memory loss and an inability to identify family members or friends. Some sufferers are found miles from their homes wandering in malls or on the street with no idea how they arrived or why they are even there. Communication with dementia patients is difficult and frustrating. For the patients themselves, realizing that their ability to retain memories and to function normally is waning often leads to depression, anxiety, anger and even death.
Abuse of Alzheimer patients by caregivers is not a rare occurrence. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse up to 62% of Alzheimer patients are abused in some fashion by those with the responsibility of caring for them. Most of the abuse is verbal but about 10% are physically abused and 14% are neglected.
Family members are also abusers. Caring for an Alzheimer patient or parent is mentally if not physically taxing since the patient is unable to effectively communicate and may need help with bathing and grooming. A loved one with dementia may taunt their caregiver or family member, or even be aggressive. Patients are forgetful, may experience hallucinations, or be unable to communicate at all. As a result, a caregiver may lash out, slap or punch the patient, and in some cases even commit sexual assault.
Signs of Alzheimer Abuse
As a family member who has entrusted the care of a loved one to a nursing home or caregiver for at-home treatment, you should be cognizant of abuse since it is not an uncommon practice. If you note any of the following, then you may have good reason to suspect abuse:
- Increased signs of depression or withdrawal
- Bruising and wounds
- Signs of restraint
- More serious injuries like broken bones
- Other changes in mood and behavior
- Expressions of fear, nervousness or intimidation when a caretaker is around
- Malnutrition or dehydration
- Neglect in administering medication or over-medicating
- Purposely isolating or confining a patient
- Unkempt room or surroundings
- Clothing that is torn and not washed
- Poor hygiene
- Hearing a caregiver or staff member belittling a patient, taunting or threatening them
Compounding the problem is that a patient is unable to express himself and is unable to openly accuse a caregiver of abuse or explain what is or is not being done to or for them.
Financial Alzheimer’s Abuse
Another form of abuse is financial. Many elderly individuals are not capable of handling their finances. This is more pronounced with Alzheimer’s patients who will not be perusing financial statements or reviewing their bank accounts.
As an adult child or spouse of someone with Alzheimer’s who is being cared for in a nursing home or by an at-home caregiver, look for these signs of possible abuse:
- Unexplained charges on a credit card
- Identity theft
- Large or mysterious withdrawals from the patient’s bank account
- Changes in a will, deed or power of attorney
- Reports that your loved one is lending money to staff members of a nursing home
- Large and unnecessary expenditures for nursing home services
Unfortunately, family members are known to exploit a loved one by having unlimited access to bank accounts and other assets. The Alzheimer’s Society reported that about 15% of patients are victims of financial abuse at the hands of a family member. You should be able to ask the family member in charge of your loved one’s finances for a periodic accounting.
Further, those with Alzheimer’s are susceptible to door-to-door salespeople and to TV ads asking people to send money or to purchase unnecessary items.
What to Do
If you have good reason to suspect abuse, then you may want to call either the Alzheimer’s Society or Massachusetts Elder Abuse and Protective Services. Further, call attorney Paul Tetzel at Tetzel Law at (617) 933-3858.
Your loved one should receive immediate medical attention if he/she has been injured or has been neglected. Your Alzheimer’s abuse lawyer can demand records from the facility where your loved one is residing and conduct an investigation into the facility’s practices.
If a family member is accused of abuse, then a court hearing may be required to bar that person from having further access to your loved one’s assets and to provide an accounting. Changes in a will or power of attorney that are the result of fraud or undue influence will likely take litigation to resolve. Should an individual caretaker be at fault, he or she could be held criminally liable.
Nursing home facilities have a duty of care to your loved ones and must adhere to state and federal regulations, including providing a safe environment. Once that duty is breached, your loved one is entitled to damages. These can include:
- Medical expenses related to the abuse
- Expenses for counseling
- Pain and suffering
- Diminished quality of life
- Reimbursement for overcharges and theft of assets
Retain Tetzel Law
Paul Tetzel is an Alzheimer abuse lawyer who has represented residents and their families who have been victims of physical, emotional and financial abuse by others. You can expect dedicated representation from Mr. Tetzel who will pursue your claim and obtain for your loved one the compensation he or she deserves. Call his office for a free consultation at (617) 933-3858.