Elder assault, even though a heinous crime, continues to be unreported and underreported in many parts of the world, including the United States. The debilitating conditions that accompany old age make elders vulnerable to an infirm and senile life that sometimes requires institutional placement. Many institutions, however, are profit centered businesses that care the least for elders’ incapacitation, their wishes and their privileges. Verbal aggression, isolation, and physical assault are some of the common forms of elder maltreatment by institutional caregivers. These offenses are rarely reported by the victim due to embarrassment and fear of the perpetrator. Moreover, institutions, such as many nursing homes either lack trained caregivers or sometimes employ first-line staff on lower wages and without adequate professional training for cost savings. Having a lower quality of care thus directly affects the residents and puts them at a higher risk for elder abuse. Physical assault in nursing homes, such as hitting, shoving food forcefully, administering psychotropic medications, restraints or involuntary confinement are far more deleterious for elders suffering with dementia or physical or mental disabilities. These severe impairments sometimes become a vantage point for many forms of abuse by institutional caregivers.
Also, some institutions have rigid schedules, which more often appear like a ‘boot camp’ that elder residents need to follow against their will. Such practices quite often tend to infantilize the elderly thus harming their respect, dignity, and self-determination. Many elder residents are unaware of their rights and privileges as a nursing home resident. However, those who are aware of such benefits often restrain from taking action against malpractice. Moreover, even though the administration and management of these institutions is aware of elder abuse and misconduct, it rarely takes any action against it. Elder assault is a crime based on ageist attitude in the society and is hardly attended as a crucial issue even at the legislative level. Hence, understanding that physical frailty on account of old age is a normal and natural process of life and we all have to endure it at some point is consequential. Much responsibility also lies on family caregivers in terms of choosing the best alternatives for institutional placement though elders’ home is their safest haven. In addition, nursing home administration and management can reassess their hiring practices to appoint and retain the best talent, including rigorous and mandatory background checks of their employees, and regular service delivery and quality improvements. Finally, as bloggers, we can be spokesperson for campaigns against elder abuse and bolster the cause at local or state levels.
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