One of the natural impacts of aging is an increase in frailty. Injuries do not heal as quickly as they once did. People do not recover quite as fast. Injuries that they once would have considered minor now take a larger toll.
There is nothing that can be done to avoid this process entirely; even someone who works hard to stay in excellent shape is eventually going to see an increase in frailty and vulnerability. Experts note that this is because of a “cumulative decline in multiple physiological systems over a lifespan.” This means that a relatively minor event can “trigger disproportionate changes in health status.”
The risk of a fall
Take, for example, a simple fall on a tile floor. Perhaps an elderly person lives in a nursing home and needs assistance getting out of bed. They get neglected or intentionally ignored by the staff, so they get out of bed on their own. They slip and fall on the tiles.
As a child, they likely slipped and fell multiple times without any real injury. As a younger adult, they may have felt the pain of the fall a bit more, but they didn’t actually need medical treatment.
As an elderly individual, though, that all changes. Now the fall results in a broken hip, a spinal cord injury, a head injury or something else that requires emergency care at a hospital. In some cases, falls by the elderly even wind up becoming fatal events.
The risk of abuse
Though falls typically result more from negligence than abuse, this example carries over into both areas. It’s that frailty that makes a difference. Even minor events could lead to life-changing injuries or death, making abuse of this vulnerable aging population one of the greatest risks they face.
Of course, no matter how frail or robust an elderly person appears, they do not deserve to suffer from abuse. It is still illegal even when it does not lead to serious injuries.
At the same time, though, one must be aware of the frail state the elderly find themselves in and the impact it can have on their long-term health. Abuse-related injuries may not heal or may lead to life-threatening conditions. The elderly may not have any way to defend themselves from this abuse. Mental deterioration and memory issues may make it hard for them to understand what’s happening or ask for help when they need it.
For all of these reasons and more, it’s important for family members to know what signs to watch out for and what steps to take when an elderly loved one suffers from abuse in a nursing home or assisted living facility.