Emory Physician: Elder Abuse More Common Than Many Realize

Credit Emory University
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A local expert says mistreatment among those living in U.S. nursing homes, personal care facilities and the community at large is more common than many would think.  State investigators raided and shut down an Alzheimer’s care home in Commerce yesterday. 21 former and current employees have been charged with more than 70 counts of abusing patients. 

Dr. Thomas Price is Medical Director of the Wesley Woods outpatient Geriatric Clinic and Chief of Medicine for Emory University’s Wesley Woods Hospital. Price says while Tuesday’s raid is initially shocking, he’s not completely surprised based on a 2010 National Elder Mistreatment study.

“Previously we had thought that maybe there were as many 1 to 4 percent of people suffering from this, but about three to four years ago we realized this was 10 percent and that number keeps climbing as we get better and better at trying to identify it.”

Price says personal care facilities like the one raided in Commerce have less oversight and are held to fewer standards than nursing homes. Personal Care Homes provide shelter and assistance with personal care tasks for older adults and those with physical, behavioral, or cognitive disabilities. Price says more rigorous standards and greater oversight of Georgia’s personal care homes are needed.


“I don’t think they need the same level of oversight as nursing home, mainly because a lot of the nursing home oversight has to do with the federal funds that are sent to them through Medicare. However, I do believe they need to they need to have a higher level of oversight than they do currently.”

To increase oversight, Price says Georgia needs more ombudsman and adult protective services workers. And for those placing a loved one in a nursing home or personal care facility, he says there are several signs they can look for to avoid abuse.

“You want to look for in this case for example you saw double diapering. They put on two diapers. That is in order to reduce the time between diaper changes in people who had incontinence. You also see people restrained. You should never see people tied down to a wheelchair or to a bed. The other thing is seeing patients who have excessive bruising or the frequency of bruising.”

Tuesday’s raid came one day after Georgia’s new elder abuse prevention law went into effect. The law is supposed to make it easier for law enforcement to prosecute those who abuse the elderly.