In Ontario, there is a legal document that regulates retirement homes: An Act to regulate retirement homes. There is also governmental institution called Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat that deals with nursing home negligence and elder abuse and injuries. Ontario government’s total investment in elder abuse prevention since 2003 has reached to more than $4.2 million.
One of the definitions of elder abuse accepted by the World Health Organization is “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.” Elder abuse can take many forms, including physical, mental or financial abuse, or neglect. Research suggests that between 4-10% (65,000 to 130,000) of Ontario seniors suffer from some form of elder abuse. Many forms of elder abuse are recognized as types of nursing home or domestic violence. There are several types of elder abuse:
- Physical: hitting, punching, slapping, burning, pushing, kicking, restraining, false imprisonment/confinement, or giving excessive or improper medication
- Psychological/Emotional: shouting, swearing, frightening, or humiliating a person.
- Financial abuse: illegal or unauthorized use of a person’s property, money, pension book or other valuables (including changing the person’s will to name the abuser as heir).
- Sexual: forcing a person to take part in any sexual activity without his or her consent
- Neglect: depriving a person of food, heat, clothing or comfort or essential medication and depriving a person of needed services to force certain kinds of actions, financial and otherwise. The deprivation may be intentional (active neglect) or happen out of lack of knowledge or resources (passive neglect).
Signs of Abuse
The signs of abuse vary considerably among older people and with the type of harm being experienced. An older person who is being abused may:
- Say she or he is being harmed
- Seem depressed and withdrawn; signs of depression in elders are not getting dressed, not performing basic care of themselves that they are able to do, never going out even if they can, inability to sleep or sleeping too much
- Not accepting invitations to spend time away from their family or a caregiver
- Seem afraid to make their own decisions
- Seem to be hiding something about a caregiver
- Not have any spending money
- Put off going to the doctor
- Feel anxious and fearful
- Try to “run away,” leaving their place of residence and not wishing to return
- Seem to have too many household “accidents”
Nursing Home Negligence
In nursing homes abuse can occur for a variety of reasons. Some abuse is the willful act of cruelty inflicted by a single individual upon an older person. More commonly, institutional abuses or neglect may reflect lack of knowledge, lack of training, lack of support, or insufficient resources. Nursing home abuse and neglect can include but not limited to the following:
- Physical assault
- Malnutrition or dehydration
- Failure to prevent wandering and elopement
- Improper use of restraints
- Medication and prescription errors
- Failure to develop a fall prevention plan
- Failure to refer residents for medical treatment