In 2011, the Toronto Star launched an investigation into GTA nursing homes after receiving several complaints from readers of signs of neglect. What they found was startling. A resident in a Bradford home was left alone on a toilet, fell and sustained a head injury. Several residents in a Hamilton home reported untreated bedsores and a lack of food. An Etobicoke nursing home was accused of rationing diapers. A woman in a Pickering nursing home suffered from a broken thigh-bone for days without treatment, and residents in a Brantford home frequently missed their weekly baths thanks to a lack of staff. Many of these complaints were uncovered through an inspection system created by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care in 2010. In many cases of neglect, families had no idea what their loved ones were going through.
Elder abuse comes in many different forms including:
Physical abuse – the use of force against an elderly person resulting in physical pain or injury. Physical abuse includes physical assaults such as hitting as well as the inappropriate use of drugs, restraints or confinement.
Emotional abuse – treatment that causes emotional pain. This may include intimidation through yelling, humiliation or ridicule, infantilization, isolating the individual from friends or activities or any other activity that diminishes the sense of dignity and self-worth of the elder.
Sexual abuse – Any sexual behaviour directed at an individual without their consent.
Neglect – The intentional or unintentional failure to fulfill a care-taking obligation. This may include withholding food, under or over-medicating, failure to provide clean clothing or diapers, failure to provide safety features, and failure to provide assistance or supervision when needed.
Financial abuse – The unauthorized use of an elder’s funds or property including stealing cash or household goods, forging signatures or identity theft.
Recognizing Elder Abuse
Unfortunately, many cases of elder abuse go undetected as they can appear to be symptoms of dementia or simply, frailty. Some common warning signs of abuse include tension between the caregiver and the resident, a change in personality or behaviour including withdrawal or depression, physical signs such as unexplained injuries or signs of restraint (such as marks on wrists), sudden weight loss or unsanitary living conditions and unusual financial withdrawals.
Preventing Elder Abuse
Calling and visiting elderly relatives as often as you can will help you notice signs of abuse. If you aren’t able to visit frequently, have a trusted friend or relative visit the home and report any signs of abuse to you. Watch for warning signs that may indicate elder abuse. If you suspect abuse, report it to the nursing home or long-term care facility and to the Ministry of Long-Term Care at 1-866-434-0144. Elder abuse is a criminal offence under the Criminal Code and should also be reported to local police.
Bogoroch & Associates LLP has extensive experience representing families whose loved ones have been injured, or who have died, while in the care of a nursing or retirement home. Should you wish to learn more please contact us. Consultations are free.