Elder Abuse and Seniors with Dementia
Vulnerable individuals with dementia are at greater risk for abuse, neglect and exploitation. Forms of elder abuse might be psychological, financial, sexual, emotional or physical. Abuse of dementia patients includes the abuse of anti-psychotic drugs, which are sometimes used incorrectly to control dementia patients.
Elder abuse can consist of a single act or multiple acts that violate an individual’s human and civil rights by another person or group of people. In instances of repetitive abuse, the abuser is usually a family member or someone who is well known to the victim (e.g., a social work professional, paid or voluntary care provider, friend, neighbor, relative or partner).
Previous studies have shown that elder abuse occurs at higher rates among individuals suffering from dementia. Their vulnerable condition naturally attracts predators looking to take advantage of their mental state. Also, identifying abuse in these cases can be more difficult due to the fact that:
- Dementia patients’ ability to communicate their abuse is more difficult.
- Dementia sufferers feel that they will not be believed if they do vocalize their feelings and experiences. They know that others may interpret their comments as confusion due to their illness.
- Dementia impairs a person’s memory of what happened to him/her.
- Symptoms of abuse are similar to those of dementia.
Caregivers of dementia patients often find themselves in over their heads, surprised by the strain and distress that quickly mounts from the senior’s pressing needs and various behaviors. The highly stressful situation can lead to subtle abuse situations that victimizers may not even be aware of completely. There can be a fine line between abuse that is carried out deliberately and that which is not, especially as it relates to family members. Abuse that is not deliberate may include neglect, unnecessary restraint or verbal abuse. However, regardless of the intent of abuse, it is all subject to the law.
The elder abuse attorneys at Garcia, Artigliere & Medby are advocates of elder abuse victims and their family members. They regularly represent victims of elder abuse or nursing home abuse. Please call their offices immediately at 1-800-281-8515 to address any concerns you may have regarding a loved one who has dementia and who may have been abused.