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Nursing home abuse should be made public to spearhead reforms

Pennsylvania is a major residential center of senior citizens, with a growing population of people over 60. It is the fourth-largest senior population in the country and is also near the top in residents over age 85. However, there is also a good chance that if a senior suffers from some degree of age-related dementia, he or she will likely suffer some degree of in-home or nursing home abuse at some point or another.

Sadly, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse, only about one out of every 14 cases of abuse are reported. One extreme example is the case of an 89-year-old woman who suffered extreme neglect at the hands of her caregiver. She was found in her home wrapped like a mummy and infested with maggots and lice.

This is perhaps an extreme example, but it is not an unusual event for abuse to be inflicted on those who are too intellectually incapacitated to know fully what is taking place. Unfortunately, that same intellectual disability largely prevents those victims from reporting the events. The Elder Law Task Force, a Pennsylvania organization, recommends that whenever abuse is found it be announced to the public in the form of printed and online materials.

With increased information and education on the subject, it is believed that efforts to correct the problem within the state are likely to be increased accordingly. According to the NCEA, about 90 percent of all elder abuse cases are committed by relatives of the victims. That is a shocking statistic that reflects perhaps a general attitude of disrespect for elderly citizens.

The statistic should not detract from the need to clean up the institutional abuse occurring in public and private nursing homes nor from trying to root out the abuse that is occurring in private homes. One strong tool against nursing home abuse and other elder abuse in Pennsylvania is the private tort action. With the assistance of an experienced attorney, a family can compel reforms and, at the same time, obtain compensation for the suffering inflicted on elderly loved ones.

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