Stopping Elder Abuse


Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in the Urban Youth International Journalism Program in partnership with Teen Living, a youth services organization.

There are countless acts of senior abuse that occur daily in places such as nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. This much we know. The big questions that remain are: What steps are necessary to ensure that these numbers are reduced? What are people in authority doing to stop elder abuse? What can someone such as a mere witness do to prevent this?

To answer some of these questions, I turned to someone with some prior knowledge and experience in the senior rights movement, Lori Clark of the Jane Adams Senior Caucus.

I asked Clark these questions and more followed as the conversation continued and my interest was persistently piqued.

She said there are 3 things that can be done to help lower the number of incidents of elder abuse.

First she said that higher penalties should be put into effect for those who abuse seniors. The state government recently enacted a new law on nursing home and rehabilitation center reform but it hasn’t been in effect long enough to really be enforced. Second, Clark said that surveys should be done monthly with patients and residents.

Clark also noted that many nursing homes are dangerously understaffed. Federal officials who testified before the U.S. Congress several years ago said that nationwide, more than half (54 percent) were below the suggested minimum staffing level for nurses aides, nearly one in four (23 percent) were below the suggested minimum staffing level for total licensed staff, and nearly a third (31 percent) were below the suggested minimum staffing level for registered nurses. More than one-half (56 percent) were below the preferred minimum level for total licensed staff and two thirds (67 percent) were below the preferred minimum level for registered nurses. Additionally, the federal officials recommended even higher requirements than are currently the suggested minimums.

In my research, I discovered many more incidents occur than what I thought. Reports of thievery, identity theft, physical and verbal abuse, and even rape appear frequently in the media.

The culprits of these major and minor crimes are usually employees that are lower in the workplace hierarchy such as janitors and Certified Nursing Assistants.

As for the victims of these acts, women are more victimized than the men, which, when I thought about it, made sense. Or at least it makes sense technically and mathematically but that still doesn’t make it right, of course.


Reports which look at nursing home abuse statistics find that 30% of the facilities are cited for instances of abuse. Still, even more alarming is the nursing home abuse statistics showing that the majority of all nursing home abuse instances are never even reported. The nursing home abuse statistics include severe instances of abuse ranging from death to malnutrition and dehydration, inadequate medical care, and many other serious injuries and conditions.

As a person with loved ones in nursing homes and rehabilitation centers, I found this information shocking but not surprising. I started with only with my opinion and a hunch, but now I urge those like me to help combat this issue by talking to your elected officials and visiting your loved ones often to check on their progress.

After all, aren’t these facilities established for the purpose of healing the sick and helping the weak recover?

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