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Elder abuse goes uninvestigated across the country

An investigative report by ProPublica, PBS and other news organizations may be interesting for residents of Alabama who have loved ones residing in senior citizen care centers such as nursing homes. The report has uncovered unnatural elderly deaths across the country have been passed off as natural and uninvestigated. Thanks to the actions of a few people in a few states, steps are being made to change the way elderly deaths are handled.

According to a geriatrician who specializes in diagnosing elder abuse, elder abuse today is where child abuse was 30 years ago. Steps are being made, but as a group, they are undervalued and do not receive proper attention, even in death. Nursing home negligence is a growing concern that is deserving of national attention.

As the baby boomers age, nearly one-third of Americans will be over 60. In a society that often relinquishes care of the elderly to those outside the family, suspicious deaths often slip under the radar.

One man, age 76, died after spending two years in a nursing home with paralysis and dementia. When he died, his death was marked natural and he was buried by his family. Later, a tip from a staff member at the nursing home about neglect would cause an investigation.

Upon further inspection, it was determined that the man had died of ailments related to poor care, including dehydration, sepsis, pneumonia and an infected ulcer. Although his family thought he had passed away peacefully, they learned that he had been neglected and over-medicated. The criminal case is ongoing and three have been charged with killing the man and two other nursing home residents.

During the investigation into unnatural elderly deaths, cases like this were found across the country. While steps are being made to reduce the number of unreported unnatural deaths, it has not gained the publicity that other causes have.

If you suspect that one of your loved ones could be a victim of elder abuse, it is best to contact the proper authorities to investigate your suspicions. Often our senior citizens are unable to articulate the abuse they are enduring and it is up to us to advocate on their behalf to ensure they are receiving the proper care and respect they deserve.

Source: ProPublica, "Gone Without a Case: Suspicious Elder Deaths Rarely Investigated," Chisun Lee and A.C. Thompson, Dec. 21, 2011

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