It’s that time of year again…. Residents’ Rights Month! The official designation of October as a time when we celebrate and focus on rights is my favorite time of year. It is a time for recognizing rights and raising the awareness of dignity, respect and the value of each individual resident. October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month and our friends at Green House 17 asked if I could share some information with them about domestic abuse later in life. Check out my blog at http://greenhouse17.org/2016/10/12/later-life-abuse/ or see the message below.
Domestic Violence & Residents of Long-Term Care Facilities
Guest blog for GreenHouse17 “17 Voices: Let’s talk about ending domestic violence.”
Sherry Huff Culp, Kentucky State Long-Term Care Ombudsman
Nursing Home Ombudsman Agency of the Bluegrass, Inc. www.ombuddy.org
Have you ever considered what it must be like to be a survivor of domestic violence, aging, disabled, and living in a nursing home? In KY there are over 34,000 residents living in licensed long-term care (LTC) facilities. The majority of these residents are impoverished older women with two or more disabilities. Some have experienced domestic violence their entire lives while others may have only experienced it since becoming dependent upon caregivers.
A significant portion of elder abuse cases reported in the United States involve spouse/partner violence. The aggressors include spouses and former spouses, partners, adult children, extended family, and in some cases caregivers. Often abusers threaten survivors with nursing home placement if they tell anyone about the abuse. Some abusers use their role and power to financially exploit their victims. Others feel that they are entitled to get their way because they are the “head of the household,” or because they are younger and physically stronger than their victim is.
Older women are likelier than younger women to experience violence for a longer time, to be in current violent relationships, and to have health and mental health problems, but no one seems really prepared to address the needs of a survivor once they move into a nursing facility. So often new admissions are asked to quickly conform to the institution’s daily flow. Some residents never have an opportunity to express their needs and wishes. One of the roles of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman is to visit with residents and learn more about who they are and what they need from their caregivers. We work very hard to develop relationships with residents and teach them about their rights.
One issue that consistently arises while we advocate to improve care and resolve problems is short or insufficient staffing in these institutions. In KY there are no staffing ratios like we have in child care settings. When there are not enough staff working in nursing homes the needs of residents are neglected and it increases the likelihood that domestic violence can begin or continue. Isolation and vulnerability are two of the scariest things about aging, but we can help reduce these fears and protect each other if we demand more caregivers by the bedside, better training for workers, and more person centered care.
Call us today to learn more about volunteering with your local Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program 1-800-372-2991