Alzheimer’s abuse risk is higher than the risk of abuse for elderly patients not experiencing any type of dementia. The symptoms of the disease force patients to depend on others for most care. This makes Alzheimer’s patients easy targets for abusive or deceitful caregivers. A study done in 2009 found that close to 50 percent of American dementia patients suffered abuse.
Residential Alzheimer’s Abuse Risk
Most of the Alzheimer’s patients that suffer abuse live in residential settings with untrained and unpaid caregivers. Many people find it difficult to care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, and experience frustration and stress. Financial strain due to high costs of medication may add to the stress of Alzheimer’s care. All of these factors may contribute to a situation in which caregivers become abusive.
Nursing Home Alzheimer’s Abuse Risk
Alzheimer’s patients that live in nursing homes may be susceptible to abuse, despite being cared for by trained and paid caregivers. Caregivers may abuse patients that are losing the ability to communicate effectively, believing that the patient will not be able to report the abuse. In addition to risks of physical harm by caregivers, Alzheimer’s patients may also be susceptible to administration taking advantage of cognitive deficiencies and charging the patient excessively or otherwise abusing patients financially.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
In a 2013 study, it was found that approximately 60 percent of caregivers had been verbally abusive towards dementia patients. This makes verbal abuse the most prevalent type of abuse suffered by dementia patients. About 14 percent of caregivers reported being neglectful, and five to 10 percent reported being physically abusive. Financial, psychological, and sexual abuse are also Alzheimer’s abuse risks.
Increase in Alzheimer’s Disease
Approximately 5.1 million Americans are affected by some form of dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease. The risk of developing Alzheimer’s increases with age, and about half of all Americans over the age of 85 have Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. This segment of the population is quickly growing, and the National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that by 2050 there will be approximately 16 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Increase in Alzheimer’s Abuse
With the growing elderly population that is effected by Alzheimer’s disease, the incidence of abuse is also increasing. Interviews with caregivers for dementia patients reveal that about 20 percent of caregivers express fears of possibly becoming physically violent with Alzheimer’s patients. If the Alzheimer’s population increases at expected rates with the rate of abuse unchanged, at least 8 million dementia patients will be at risk of Alzheimer’s abuse by 2050.
Causes of Alzheimer’s Abuse
While Alzheimer’s abuse is inexcusable, many factors may contribute to abuse. Drug problems and psychological conditions that may alter mental state are common in abusive caregivers. These factors may affect caregivers in both residential and institutional settings, as well as family members living with Alzheimer’s patients.
Accused verbal or physical abusers give similar reasons for committing the abuse, including:
- Perceived burden
- Financial strain
- Perceived limitations
- Lack of social contact
Alzheimer’s Abuse Effects
Alzheimer’s patients that suffer abuse have a significantly higher risk of fatality than those that do not suffer abuse. Psychological complications, physical ailments, and the risk of self harm are also much higher for Alzheimer’s patients that have suffered physical or emotional abuse. An estimated 5.3 billion dollars is spent annually in America providing health care to elder Americans that have been abused. Financial loss by elderly Americans in 2009 is estimated at about 2.9 billion dollars.
Lowering Alzheimer’s Abuse Risk
Alzheimer’s abuse is a growing public health problem. Alzheimer’s abuse risk can be lowered both on a large scale and a small scale by concerned citizens. Awareness campaigns and attorneys can help to hold abusive individuals and companies responsible. Individuals caring for Alzheimer’s patients can take steps to prevent abuse by joining support groups and seeking help with stressful situations.
“Abuse.” Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s Association, n.d. Web. 20 Feb 2014. <http://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-elder-abuse.asp
“Elder Abuse.” Alzheimer’s Society Canada. Alzheimer’s Society Canada, 31 Aug 2012. Web. 20 Feb 2014. <http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/Living-with-dementia/Day-to-day-living/Safety/Elder-abuse>.
“Statistics/Data.” National Center on Elder Abuse. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. 20 Feb 2014. <http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/Library/Data/index.asp&xgt;.