Abuse and Neglect at Long-Term Care Facilities

Abuse and Neglect at Long-Term Care Facilities

Elder abuse has been getting increasing attention, both in research and the media. It can occur where the older person is living in a house, where they are cared for by family members or a PSW, or at long-term care facilities. Older persons are some of the most vulnerable people in society: they depend on their caregivers to provide them with shelter, care and necessities. Most of them suffer from one or more chronic diseases that present limits to their physical and cognitive functioning. They may be unable to report abuse, or fear retaliation for doing so. For elder abuse in long-term care facilities, causes can include: a stressful working situation (e.g. staff shortages); staff burnout; and/or ineffective training at handling resident aggression.

Elder abuse can take many forms. “Physical abuse” is injury or harm to a person carried out with the intention of causing suffering, pain or impairment; examples include hitting as well as improper use of physical or chemical restraints. “Sexual abuse” can also occur; for instance, sexual assault and indecent exposure. “Psychological abuse” can include threats, harassment or attempts to humiliate or intimidate the older person. Some abuse is hybrid, having physical and psychological components, such as rough handling and pulling too hard. “Neglect” is a caregiver’s refusal or failure to fulfill his/her duties to the dependent, including the provision of food, clothing, medicine, medical care, dental care and services deemed essential for the person’s wellbeing.

Ontario’s standards for health and safety for long-term care homes are set out in Ontario’s Long Term Care Homes Act, 2007 and regulations made thereunder This contains the residents’ Bill of Rights which is required to be made visible on the premises to remind residents and employees of residents’ rights. If experiencing elder abuse or neglect, a resident or family member should consult with a personal injury lawyer for advice. Some options include: a) to file a complaint with the facility; or b) to file a complaint with the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.

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