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How Should Nurses React When They See Elder Abuse

When an elderly family member is placed in a nursing home, it is often because that family member can no longer comfortably or safely live at home. When daily in-home visits from a nurse are no longer adequate to provide for the needs of an elderly person, then it is time for the family to start looking into nursing homes.

Most families assume that the priority of any nursing home they visit is the protection of the elderly residents and delivering excellent care. But with the rise in the number of elder abuse cases being reported, it is in the family's best interests to be vigilant about the care their elderly loved ones receive. The CNAs and other healthcare professionals who work in nursing homes have an obligation to their patients to report elder abuse. But what can CNA's and nurses do when they see abuse taking place?

The Scourge Of Elder Abuse
The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that 13 percent of the total population in 2010 was 65 years of age and older. The Baby Boomer generation will continue to affect the average age of the American population for many years to come. It is estimated that by 2050, the number of people who will be 85 and older will be 19 million, which would be up from 5.8 million in 2010.

It is estimated that approximately 10 percent of the entire population aged 65 years and older experiences some form of elder abuse. As the population numbers for elderly people continue to rise, the number of people experiencing abuse will rise as well. The scary part is that nine out of every 10 victims of elder abuse are being abused by family members. Whether it is financial abuse by draining the elder's bank account or physical abuse, these activities are taking place in the elders' homes and in nursing homes.

What Is Elder Abuse?

According to, elder abuse can come in a variety of forms. It should be pointed out that just because studies show that 90 percent of abuse comes from family members, that does not mean that nursing home personnel are not committing these crimes as well. For example, false imprisonment can occur when a nursing home worker refuses to give an elderly resident their walker or wheelchair so that the resident may be able to go to different parts of the facility.

The majority of the abuse performed by family members deals with neglect and financial abuse. In nursing homes, the issues include sexual and physical abuse. In some cases, the more defenseless a resident is, the more liable they are to become victims of abuse.

What Can CNAs Do?
In states such as California, nursing home employees who witness abuse are required by law to report it. California also has laws protecting healthcare workers from retaliation by the company if they do report neglect or abuse. In all, 34 states have laws that protect healthcare workers who speak up about elderly abuse in nursing homes, even if that abuse is being committed by the nursing homes themselves.

While not every state makes it mandatory for employees to report abuse in nursing homes, there are protections in place for employees who do the right thing. Any employee who witnesses abuse should immediately report it to their supervisor. If the employee does not feel enough has been done, the Administration on Aging recommends contacting your state office on elder abuse. This issue is handled primarily at the state level, which means that state officials will have to be contacted if the employee's complaints are ignored by the nursing home itself.

Elder abuse is a difficult subject, but there are a growing amount of laws being put in place at the federal and state levels to handle the problem. Any CNAs who witness elder abuse should report the issue immediately to their supervisors. If the problem continues, then that CNA should escalate the complaint to the state's office on elder abuse. There are laws to protect healthcare workers who protect the public by reporting abuse. One way to stop abuse is through hotlines that help track and report elderly abuse as a crime that must be stopped in order to allow elderly citizens to live in dignity.

About The Author; Laurence Banville, Esquire:

Laurence Banville is the managing partner of Banville Law with a reputation for thorough preparation and a balanced approach to his clients. He is a down-to earth bright young attorney who has been honored with the Top 40 under 40 award. This recognition is given to the top 40 ranked attorneys across the United States who are under 40 years of age. He represents plaintiffs and in particular of nursing home abuse.