Older Americans face an increased risk of elder abuse. “Older Americans” is the generational term used to describe American citizens over 60 years old. As a population, seniors of this age tend to be more secretive about issues they face, quiet or embarrassed of physical harm. These characteristics make them less likely to realize what is happening and report it when it is too late.
While these descriptions may not directly describe the elders you know, you cannot be too careful. As we focus on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in June it is critical for you learn how to be proactive. (USE THIS CITE - https://www.acl.gov/news-and-events/events-and-observances/world-elder-abuse-awareness-day) Abuse can occur in a senior’s own home, in relatives’ homes and even in long-term care facilities.
Elder abuse takes many forms. It can include physical abuse and neglect, often in places that are not easily observed, emotional abuse, and financial exploitation. Unfortunately, this abuse can be started by people who are directly responsible for the senior’s care. In fact, family members are one of the leading perpetrators of elder abuse.
When it comes to physical abuse, unexplained injuries remain one of the largest indicators. If your loved one does not have an illness that causes bruising, yet he or she is frequently bruised, this could be an indication of physical abuse. Although you may feel uncomfortable at first, be sure to ask to see under the senior’s clothes as many abusers will cause harm where they believe it will go unnoticed.
Physical abuse can be caused by the senior’s caregiver. A key factor in abuse situations can be the caregiver’s attitude. If the caregiver refuses you to see your loved one alone, this can be a warning sign of abuse. Further, if he or she is angry, frustrated or exasperated while you are present it can be another indication that your loved one may be at risk of elder abuse. Elder abuse does not have to be intentional to be harmful. Occasionally show up unannounced and closely observe the interplay between the caregiver and the senior.
Another type of abuse is elder neglect. In this instance, the caregiver neglects to provide proper care that the senior needs. Often, this deals with much needed daily responsibilities such as making the senior food, feeding him or her, or taking the senior to doctors’ appointments. Elder abuse of this type can include sudden weight loss, dehydration or issues related to medication mismanagement. Further, untreated bed sores, dirty living conditions, or being left alone for extended periods of time can all be indicators of elder neglect.
Finally, closely monitor the senior’s finances. Financial exploitation is a form of elder abuse that continues to be on the rise. It can include significant withdrawals from the elder’s accounts, valuable items missing from the house, suspicious changes to titling of accounts and large untraceable withdrawals.
These are just a few of the signs you can look for to determine if elder abuse is occurring. Be sure to monitor you senior loved ones no matter where they live. If you do not live nearby be sure to ask a trusted friend or family member to help you. Remain on guard as elder abuse can happen to anyone, by anyone. If you have questions on this or any elder law issue to contact our office!