Nursing home abuse is about more than staff neglecting residents p2

According to the Tennessee State Data Center at Haslam College of Business, in 2010 about 13 percent of the state's population were ages 65 and up. In 2020, that age group is projected to account for 20 percent of the population; by 2025, a full 25 percent. The Greatest Generation is giving way to Baby Boomers, and the prospect of the change has had social scientists and policymakers a little nervous about what that means.

For boomers, it will mean more time with children and grandchildren, more time in the workplace, or more time to create new things and come up with new ideas. It could also mean that more seniors will no longer be able to live independently because of failing health, physical frailty, or cognitive deterioration -- or any combination of the three.

Many Boomers that we know are more afraid of a cognitive decline than a physical one. As they age, though, the chance of developing dementia or Alzheimer's disease increases.

It poses a challenge for their families. On the one hand, we love having our parents around and want them to be with us for as long as possible. On the other hand, a cognitive decline will leave us with a different person, new responsibilities and a pile of bills. We talked about this in our Feb. 27 post: That different person may be healthy in every other way. A friend said she bet her 75-year-old mother could still play a mean game of tennis, a game that would make younger players weep with envy ... if only she knew what a tennis racket was or didn't erupt in anger when she couldn't remember how to tie her sneakers.

The troubling trend we were talking about was the increase in physical violence among nursing home residents. In a 2014 study, Cornell University researchers looked at aggressive incidents among nursing home residents over a four-week period. They found that 20 percent -- 1 in 5 -- had been involved in such an incident.

In 2013, another study sponsored by the Department of Justice looked at discord among assisted living facility residents. Those researchers found that 6 percent of the residents had been involved in an aggressive encounter, and 4 percent had been bullied. Being involved in an argument with another resident was more common -- 13 percent -- but less alarming than Cornell's 20 percent.

Living longer, then, has become a double-edged sword. We can't do anything about demographics, but we could change how nursing home residents are screened.

More on that in our next post.

Source: The Virginian-Pilot/New America Media, "Elder Abuse Rising in Care Facilities Mixing the Frail and the Disturbed," Elizabeth Simpson, Feb. 25, 2015

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