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Shayna Slater
Shayna Slater
Attorney • (215) 735-0773

Alzheimer’s & Dementia Patients: Are They at Higher Risk for Abuse?

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The simple answer is yes. There are an estimated 5.4 million people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. See http://www.alz.org/downloads/Facts_Figures_2011.pdf A large majority of these individuals will likely require some form of long term care during their life. Anytime a loved one requires long term care, it is a very stressful situation. However, when you are admitting an Alzheimer’s or Dementia patient to a nursing home the stress is often intensified. These patients may not be able to communicate their needs nor tell someone whether or not they are receiving appropriate care. Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients often require additional time, attention and understanding from the staff of the nursing home. When a nursing home is either improperly staffed and/or the staff is not properly trained on how to handle Alzheimer patients, abuse and neglect can result. If possible, prior to admitting an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient to a nursing home, find out if the staff has received specialized training on how to care for Alzheimer and Dementia patients and whether the staff ratio is increased for these patients.

Residents suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, depending on the progression of the disease, may not have the ability to remember to reposition themselves in bed, feed themselves, ring their call bell for assistance or communicate the occurrence of abuse or neglect to someone. For those reasons, the abuse and neglect of these patients often goes undetected and unreported. Additionally, Alzheimer’s and dementia patients may be targeted by caregivers who are well aware that they may not recall the abuse/neglect in order to report it. Additionally, if a resident is able to recall the abuse or neglect and does report it, it unfortunately may be written off as a delusion which can occur in Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. For this reason, it is paramount, that the resident’s loved ones try to observe the patients physical and emotional well-being as often as possible. Always look for bruises, cuts, scraps, bedsores, a drastic reaction to a particular caregiver, weight loss and anything you consider out of the ordinary.

There is no question that being a caregiver can often be a thankless job and that Alzheimer’s and dementia patients can be difficult to handle due to their disease. Regardless, when a nursing home agrees to care for an Alzheimer or Dementia patient, they do so with the full understanding that these individuals are entitled to, and they are required to provide, a safe environment, appropriate care and compassion. Abuse and neglect is never acceptable. If you suspect your loved one is suffering from abuse or neglect, report it. They may need you to make their voice heard.