There are many causes of elder abuse, and this is a complicated cultural and sociological issue. In many instances, abuse occur in nursing facilities that are of lower quality and who hire poorly trained staff. However, elder abuse can take place in any nursing facility.
The personal issues and various characteristics of the caregivers and family members are also crucial in identifying the real cause behind the abuse.
There are cultural forces and bigger societal issues that play a role in how the elderly person is treated by others and is cared for by caregivers.
If we can understand the various forces that contribute to abuse of the elderly, the staff at the nursing facility and members of the family have a better chance of identifying the causes that contribute to abuse of the elders.
Nursing Home Quality
Not every nursing home operates the same (2). This is why families need to research each care facility they are entertaining before making the decision to have a family member come to live there.
Many nursing facilities provide excellent care and services to the people they care for, but there are others that have an increased chance of abusing elders who are sick, or who have emotional and mental issues.
Abuse at a nursing facility can be the result of many different factors. These include:
- Understaffing. This means that the nurses and CNAs are spread out very thin when it comes to providing each resident with the care that they need and deserve. Lack of adequate staffing is one of the main causes of elder abuse. Falls are also frequent in a nursing facility and many of these can be completely prevented if the nursing facility has the staff to attend to the cares of each resident in the way they need to be cared for.
- Immobility or illness in the elder. Neglect is just as dangerous as abuse when it comes to the care of nursing facility residents. If elders are not mobile or are extremely sick, they may not be cared for adequately and can develop bedsores, decreased muscle tone, an increased risk of accidents, and a loss of mobility — worse than when they came in.
- Stress and exhaustion in the caretaker. If the nursing facility is understaffed, those that are left caring for the individual residents can become exhausted and stressed out. This can raise the chances of abusing the residents they care for. Stress alone can result in a staff member who is not as attentive to the needs of their residents and increase the chance of inadvertently neglecting or injuring a resident. Staff members who are suffering from stress are often extremely frustrated. They are more likely to intentionally harm the elderly person or to abuse them in the act of caring for them.
Factors Related to Caregiver Stress
There can be factors within the caregiver’s personal life that can result in their abuse of residents. For those who have not yet cared for an elder in a living facility, it may be difficult to recognize how stressful and difficult it can be to care for many residents in a nursing home setting.
Often, nursing home caregivers lack the necessary resources, knowledge and training to care for their elderly clients. The risk of elder abuse is even more likely when the elder is suffering from an emotional disorder or some other form of illness. Such situations can add to the stress of caring for the elder and this can result in feelings that the caregiver is “trapped”
Situations of abuse related to personal issues or stress can be accidental, and may just be a byproduct of the caregiver’s frustration over caring for the elder. The abuse can just as easily become intentional, especially if the caregiver does not want the responsibility of caring for the elder, and resents having to do it (3).
Preventing Elder Abuse
Regardless of the cause of elder abuse, it is an occurrence that must be recognized and prevented in order to avoid permanent injury to the elderly person. Elders should have the opportunity to live a comfortable life in their older age. It is up to family members, friends and staff at the nursing facility to notice when elder abuse occurs in the nursing home.
If abuse occurs, the resident should be relocated and the abuse should be reported to adult protective services. If you are a caregiver under extreme stress and trying to manage the responsibility of caring for an elderly family member, you can make use of professional services or the help from other family members or friends of the family if needed.