If you are looking out for your loved one, then you may be worried about elder abuse. Elder abuse effects thousands of older people every year. You as a concerned family member can not only look out for signs of elder abuse, but completely prevent it from happening.
Abusers of older adults may be family members, friends, hired professionals, or total strangers. Elder abuse is a term referring to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. All states have elder abuse prevention laws which may vary from one state to another. It is very important to understand that abuse takes many different forms, and physical neglect isn’t the only thing involved here.
Different forms of elder abuse include:
- Physical Abuse—inflicting physical pain or injury on a senior, e.g. slapping, bruising, or restraining by physical or chemical means.
- Sexual Abuse—non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.
- Neglect—the failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder.
- Financial Exploitation—the illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit. Email and telephone scams have been widely popular lately. It is important to inform our elderly loved ones of the importance not to give out personal information to potential scammers.
- Emotional Abuse—inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts, e.g. humiliating, intimidating, or threatening.
- Abandonment—desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
- Self-neglect—characterized as the failure of a person to perform essential, self-care tasks and that such failure threatens his/her own health or safety.
In order to avoid further abuse, it is important to look out for signs of changes in someone’s condition and their surroundings. Warning signs of elder abuse may include visible signs, such as bruises or abrasions, broken bones and burns, or changes in behavior, such as withdrawal from normal activities, change in alertness, and depression. Sudden changes in financial situations may suggest exploitation. Look for signs of neglect, such as bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and weight loss. Finally, if your loved one is having frequent arguments with their caregiver, it could also be a sign of neglect and abuse.
It is not your job to verify that abuse is occurring, but it is important to look out for signs and alert the proper authorities if you suspect it. There are a variety of non-profit or governmental resources that can assist, but in the event that you cannot get those resources together immediately you should call an elder law attorney. Most elder law attorneys have a list of resources at their disposal to which you can be immediately directed to stop abuse and hold others accountable.