ELDER ABUSE BY HEALTHCARE WORKERSSurveys and reports indicate that elder abuse by health care workers is an important problem and that many abuse incidents are not reported. Any member of the healthcare team can abuse older clients. Abuse can take place in a client’s home, an assisted living facility, a residential care center, a nursing home, or in any setting where healthcare workers care for clients.
Factors related to elder abuse by healthcare workers include:
• Stress at work (e.g. long hours, too much work and not enough staff)
• Worker burnout (unable to cope because of high stress levels)
• Lack of training
Research on elder abuse by health care workers indicates that abuse may be more common in troubled facilities (e.g. high staff turnover) and among staff who have not been trained in how to manage stress.
Other risk factors are:
• Caring for clients with difficult behaviors who strike out at healthcare workers, and
• Negative feelings towards older persons in general.
Abuse by healthcare workers can be physical, emotional, sexual, financial, or it can involve neglect.
Examples of abuse situations include handling clients roughly, yelling at clients, stealing from clients, refusing to give older persons food or medicine, or not letting clients make decisions about their care.
Sometimes elder abuse by health care workers happens without being aware that they are doing so. One example would be using a restraint on an older client when it is not appropriate to do so. Restraints are used to protect clients from harming themselves or others. Restraints are sometimes needed but they should be used only as a last resort when other possible measures have been considered.
A restraint has been described as something that limits or restricts freedom of movement. A restraint can be a physical device such as a restraining garment. A restraint can also be a medication used to control a client’s behavior. Locking clients in their rooms without their consent would also be considered a form of restraint.
The goal of many healthcare facilities is to be restraint free. Strict rules are in place regarding how restraints can be used. Most facilities require a doctor’s order for their use. As an unregulated healthcare worker, you would not be responsible for deciding who should receive a restraint. You would be expected to pass along information to help in the team decision-making process.
There is no “typical” profile of the healthcare worker as an abuser. Some research has shown that abusers in nursing homes tend to become angry and to lose their tempers more easily than others. As well, these staff members often have mental health problems.