You Have the Right to Be Safe!

You Have the Right to Be Safe!

October is Nursing Home Resident’s Rights Month and Domestic Violence Awareness month. We seldom if ever consider these two things at the same time-but we should.

Elder abuse is one of the least reported crimes. Elder abuse is defined by the Word Health Organization as “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.” It is also a cause of nursing home admissions.

Domestic violence in later life may be a continuation of intimate partner violence. The partners have merely aged and their “domestic violence has grown old” with them. The abuser may be a family member such as a son or daughter who is a caregiver. Seniors don’t seek help for all of the same reasons as younger abuse victims-fear, shame, isolation, and lack of resources. A Seniors experience of abuse may be made worse by overall poor health, cognitive impairment and mobility limitations. The abuser may withhold medical care, assistive devices (cane, walker, hearing aid), medicine or withhold attention from other family members such as children or grandchildren. An abuser may give too much medicine to ensure compliance with the abusers need for control.

Elder abuse continues to climb in Rhode Island. In 2016, the Coalition for Domestic Violence served 475 elder victims of domestic violence. In Massachusetts, there has been a 37% increase in the number of elder abuse reports and a 57% increase in confirmed allegations.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimate that 4 out of 5 cases of elder abuse go unreported. Consider four of your friends-statistically, only 1 of you will be free from harm.

Your elderly neighbor has a child who only appears when the check comes in and is happy to take your neighbor to the bank. Your friend leaves their spouse with dementia home alone stuck in the recliner while they run to the grocery store. You have a suspicion that something isn’t quite right. Rhode Island law requires any person who suspects elder abuse to report it to the Division of Elderly Affairs. It is not your job to prove the crime-only to report your suspicion. Massachusetts requires certain professionals to report suspicion of elder abuse.

If you need more information on what to look for you can find it on rielderinfo.com by clicking here.

Being safe is an important part of aging independently. If you, or someone you know is in immediate danger call 911!

The Saint Elizabeth Safe Haven in Rhode Island offers a safe place for frail elderly victims of abuse. Besides providing a safe place to stay the Saint Elizabeth Community works with community partners to assist the Senior in crafting a safety plan, obtain legal services, get counseling, attend court and make long term plans. Referrals must be made through one of their partner agencies. If you would like more information about the program, please call 1-877-613-7010.

Resident’s in long term care have the right to enjoy all of the same rights as those of us who reside in the community. For example, nursing home residents have the-

  • Right to Dignity, Respect, and Freedom
  • Right to Make Independent Choices
  • The Right to Be Fully Informed
  • Right to Visits
  • Right to Complain
  • Right to Participate in One’s Own Care
  • Right to Privacy and Confidentiality
  • Rights During Transfers and Discharges

Sadly, for some Seniors when they enter the nursing home it’s the first time in a long time that they get to enjoy these basic rights.

In Rhode Island

If a Senior is not safe at home call:

Office of Healthy Aging

401-462-0555      or      462-3000

Neglect or Abuse in a facility call:

Department of Health Facilities Regulation



RI Attorney General Patient Abuse or Neglect,

Medicaid Fraud & Drug Diversion Unit

401-222-2566      or      274-4400 x2269


RI Long Term Care Ombudsman



In Massachusetts

Statewide Elder Abuse Hotline


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