Increasing Dementia Deaths in the United States: A Connection with Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect?
Understanding Why Dementia Deaths are Increasing and How it Could be Related to Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Not only is dementia a serious problem, it is an increasingly fatal problem. According to a Centers for Disease Control report, dementia-related deaths have doubled in the United States from 2000 to 2017. There are several forms of dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most prevalent and now the sixth leading cause of death. But also according to the CDC report, if all subsets of dementia and the deaths they have caused were combined, dementia would be the third leading cause of death amongst Americans. This is a shocking statistic because it means dementia would be behind only heart disease and cancer, and above accidents, respiratory disease, diabetes, influenza, and pneumonia, as the leading causes of death in the United States.
What is Dementia?
While many people have heard of dementia and the effect it has on people, few people know what dementia really is and how is affects a person physiologically. Dementia is a loss of cognitive functioning and behavior abilities which impact an individual’s ability to carry out his or her normal and daily life. These impairments affect an individual’s thinking, reasoning, memory, language skills, self-management, and other abilities. As the disease progresses, an individual’s mind can deteriorate and completely change his or her personality or ability to control emotions. Someone with advanced dementia may become virtually helpless and seem like a completely different person than they once were.
Dementia is tricky because it is the result of a process that normally occurs as people age where a nerve cell stops working, loses connection with other nerve cells, and dies. The only difference is that individuals who have dementia experience this process more frequently than people who do not have dementia. According to government research, even though half of all people over the age of 85 have some form of dementia, many people who are even older have no signs of any dementia.
Why is it Common for Nursing Home Residents to Have Dementia?
Research indicates that half of all adults suffering from dementia reside in a nursing home or assisted living facility. The Centers for Disease Control report above explains that the main reason for this is that our life expectancy is growing and advancements in healthcare allow individuals to live longer lives by beating more deadly diseases like heart disease and cancer. This means that other conditions, particularly cognitive conditions, are increasing in prevalence.
Since people are no longer succumbing to other medical conditions that often will result in their death, people are living longer, but deteriorating more noticeably by suffering from cognitive impairments like dementia. As a result, more people are living with dementia and many of those individuals need extensive supervision because they no longer understand when their actions place them in danger of injury. As much as family members may want to care for their aging parents or grandparents, work obligations, raising children or simply inability to understand their loved one’s care needs leads to the need for more professional care. Nursing homes are currently the entities that are filling that void.
How Does Dementia Make a Resident More Susceptible to Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect?
Dementia makes a resident of a nursing home or assisted living home more susceptible to nursing home abuse and neglect because the resident is typically unable to defend himself/herself, communicate what occurred, remember what occurred, or otherwise protect his or her rights. Dementia can create the “perfect victim” of abuse or neglect because dementia can cause significant communication, memory, and cognitive impairments. Sadly, when a resident with dementia reports abuse or neglect it is often ignored because their comments are deemed unreliable.
While many nursing homes and healthcare providers laudably protect and maintain the dignity those suffering from dementia, unfortunately many healthcare providers are taking advantage of vulnerable people. The most common forms of Missouri nursing home abuse and neglect that occur to residents who are suffering from cognitive impairments like dementia include the following:
- Physical abuse, including punching, kicking, burning, biting, pinching, pushing, and being rough with bedridden residents;
- Sexual abuse, including intercourse, unwanted touching, and forced relations;
- Emotional abuse and psychological abuse;
- Financial abuse;
- Neglect, including ignoring, leaving in bathrooms/bathtubs unattended for long periods of time, and otherwise leaving a resident in his or her room without checking; and
- Other types of abuse.
Simply put, nursing home residents with dementia can be an easy target for those seeking to do them harm or companies that don’t want to staff their facility sufficiently to provide proper care. If you believe that a loved one has been subjected to Missouri nursing home abuse or neglect, ask our St. Louis nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer at the Terry Law Firm to review your case. Call us to schedule your FREE evaluation by dialing (314) 334-1439.