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Preventing Elder Abuse

It is natural that families facing the terminal illness of a loved one want to take every step possible to ensure that their vulnerable family member is protected from harm. A hospice program can help to prevent elder abuse. Elder abuse comes in many forms:

  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional and mental abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Financial abuse
  • Neglect
  • Self-neglect

A Caring Team

Hospice care is provided by a team of staff (including the doctor, nurse, social worker, home health aide, volunteer, and others) each of whom has regular contact with the patient and with other team members. Optimally, this close working relationship means that every team member is held accountable for carrying out the care plan. It also means that staff do not work in isolation and that they receive the support and supervision they need to do a good job.

All staff and volunteers receive training in the hospice philosophy, which is centered on meeting individual patient needs and focused on the comfort and dignity of the patient. If a patient is uncomfortable or distressed, staff are trained to identify the problem and find a solution.

Respite for Caregivers
Under the stress of constant caregiving, even the most loving family member can lose patience and possibly mistreat a patient. Sometimes family caregivers become so exhausted that they neglect important aspects of the patient's care. The respite care provided by hospice can help the family caregiver to stay healthy, physically and mentally, and thus provide better care.

Regular Monitoring by Professionals

Hospice staff monitor the patient for changes in physical and emotional health. If a staff member recognizes signs and symptoms of abuse, he or she will make a report to the social worker, nurse, therapist, or doctor on the team. One of these professionals will make an Adult Protective Services report to the Department of Social Services. Licensed staff have a duty to report all cases of suspected abuse of a vulnerable adult.

If you suspect that your family member has been abused by a staff member or another patient, immediately report this to the nurse, social worker, or doctor on the hospice team or to the Department of Social Services. (If the hospice is located in a nursing home call the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.)

If you are concerned that staff will not handle the matter appropriately, you may contact the Department of Social Services directly. In Baltimore County, call 410-853-3000 and ask for Adult Services. In other areas in Maryland contact the local Department of Social Services. If your loved one is in a nursing home in Baltimore County, call the Long-Term Care Ombudsman at 410-887-4200. In other areas in Maryland contact the local Maryland Access Point (MAP) Office for the phone number for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman in your area.