Alzheimer’s abuse is very common today, thanks in large part to the fact that many patients with this condition are unable to communicate what is happening to their loved ones. In many instances, they may not even realize or recall that the abuse has taken place. Alzheimer’s abuse can include any and all forms of elder abuse, including physical, emotional, neglect, financial and sexual abuse. In fact, individuals with dementia can be at a higher risk of abuse. The Alzheimer’s Society states, “People with dementia can be particularly vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment for many reasons. Dementia can also make it harder to detect when abuse is taking place.”
Types of Alzheimer’s Abuse
Alzheimer’s patients can suffer from any of the myriads of elder abuse situations that threaten patients in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. These can include:
Physical Abuse: Physical abuse consists of any situation in which someone else causes the patient physical pain or injury. This can include hitting, punching, kicking, biting, choking and much more.
Emotional Abuse: Emotional abuse of Alzheimer’s patients is no less common than with other elderly patients within nursing homes, and can consist of threats, verbal assault, intimidation, harassment, and more.
Restraints: More than other patients, Alzheimer’s sufferers are at risk for restraint-related abuse. Restraints are sometimes necessary to prevent physical harm or to safeguard a patient who might injure themselves, but they can be misused.
Sexual Abuse: Alzheimer’s patients are prime targets for sexual abuse due to their mental condition. Sexual abuse can range from inappropriate touching through clothing all the way up to assault and rape.
Financial Abuse: Because of their mental condition, Alzheimer’s patients are prime targets for financial abuse, which can include theft of cash or cards, as well as theft of bank account information and being tricked into signing contracts or other binding documents.
Neglect: Both facility and self-neglect can affect Alzheimer’s patients in nursing home facilities. If self-neglect is the issue, it is the responsibility of the facility staff to recognize and treat.
Note that the situation is not reserved for nursing homes alone. Many other predators target patients with dementia and other cognitive disorders, including sales people and conmen.
How to Recognize Signs of Alzheimer’s Abuse
Recognizing signs of abuse in Alzheimer’s patients is vital, and a great deal of the onus here falls on loved ones to pay close attention. Because Alzheimer’s patients are often left in an unclear mental state, and unable to clearly communicate what may have happened to them, it is important to look for the following:
Injuries: Look for signs of physical abuse, which can include cuts, bruises, marks from restraints and more. All of these can be signs that the caregivers at the facility are physically abusing your loved one.
Financial Changes: Look for financial changes in the patient’s life. These can include unexplained purchases from their checking account or on credit cards, changes to their legal paperwork (wills, the power of attorney), and more.
Change in Behavior: While Alzheimer’s patients are known for changes in their behavior, it is important to note any increases in aggression toward caregivers, as this can indicate that the caregiver has harmed or otherwise abused your loved one.
Bad Hygiene: Look for signs that your loved one is not getting the physical care they need to stay clean and healthy, as this can indicate neglect.
Bruising or Bleeding: Look for bruising around the genitals, thighs, and breasts to indicate potential sexual abuse. Being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease is another sign of sexual abuse at the facility.
How to Report Alzheimer’s Abuse
Your state has a hotline for reporting all types of elder abuse, including Alzheimer’s abuse. Call the hotline and the government should provide your loved one with a caregiver/caseworker who will interview them and investigate the situation.
Do You Need Legal Assistance?
It may be wise to hire an elder abuse attorney with experience handling Alzheimer’s abuse cases to represent your loved one against the facility or other threat. Hiring an attorney will help ensure the best chance of a positive outcome.