Millions of nursing home residents are forced to suffer abuse and neglect from those who are supposed to be taking care of them. While anyone in that type of setting can be a target for abuse, certain elderly demographics, like veterans, are at an increased risk. Military veterans are an especially at-risk group because they are often left without sufficient support systems, friends and family networks, and mental and physical health care services after serving their country.
The consequences of abuse or neglect in an elderly care facility vary but can lead to serious physical injuries, financial difficulties, severe depression, and early mortality. In order to get a better idea of what abuse looks like in VA nursing homes and what you can do to protect your loved ones, let’s start by taking a look at some facts and statistics about the aging veteran population in the United States.
Veterans in the United States: Facts & Statistics
A veteran is any person who has served in one or more of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or Space Force. The term also applies to anyone who served during the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II.
According to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics (NCVAS), there were expected to be 21.3 million veterans living in the United States by 2016. Of those 21.3 million, nearly 10 million were over the age of 65, having served during one of the following wars:
- World War II (pre-1939): 6,987 veterans
- World War II (1939-1946): 695,637 veterans
- Korean Conflict (1950-1955): 1,592,188 veterans
- Vietnam War (1955-1975): 9,953,004 veterans
Today, nearly 46 percent of all living war veterans are over the age of 65. Because of that, many reside in nursing homes to receive the care they need to live a high-quality life.
Veterans and the Increased Risk for Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home residents who are veterans are at risk for the same types of abuse and neglect as any other resident, including physical, emotional, sexual, and financial. However, there are certain factors that increase the likelihood of veterans being abuse. Some of the most common factors include the following:
- Physical Disabilities. Veterans are likely to suffer from physical disabilities they sustained when serving in the military. These disabilities, especially the ones that impede mobility, make them more vulnerable to abuse.
- PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a common mental disorder veterans develop as a result of their time serving. This is especially true for those who experienced combat. PTSD can cause hallucinations, depression, and confusion. As a result, those suffering may lash out at employees, thus making negligent employees feel justified in their abuse. In addition to that, PTSD can make it challenging to conduct a thorough abuse investigation.
- Substance abuse. Nursing homes are seeing an increasing number of older adults, especially veterans, with alcohol or substance abuse problems. If a facility knows that a resident is abusing medications or alcohol, it should be taking steps to address the problem. Failing to do so is a form of neglect. Substance abuse can also inhibit a resident’s cognitive function, making them more vulnerable to abuse.
Regardless of the factors that resulted in a resident’s abuse or neglect, it’s important that the person be removed from the situation and the at-fault staff member or facility is held accountable for its actions.
How to Report Veteran Abuse and Neglect
According to the American Psychological Association, the majority of elder abuse and neglect incident go unreported. In the event you believe veteran abuse or neglect is happening, you need to take steps to report what’s happening. While every state has its own organizations you can report abuse to, there are some organizations that deal specifically with veteran abuse—from advocacy to improving publish awareness. Those organizations include the following:
- National Center on Elder Abuse
- Adult Protective Services
- Area Agencies on Aging
- National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life
Once you’ve reported the suspected abuse, an investigation will be conducted. If necessary, law enforcement may get involved, and the resident could be removed from the facility and taken to a safer location.
If you believe your loved one has wrongfully suffered in their VA nursing home, you have the right to pursue legal action. Once you report the incident, you should get in touch with an attorney from Thomas Law Offices. Our law firm is dedicated to helping nursing home abuse victims, and we’ll help you hold the negligent facility accountable. Contact us today for more information.