At one time, the term “elder abuse” was foreign to most people. Today, it is something that people know about all too well. Like millions of other people, you have probably watched news reports or videos showing an elderly person getting hit, kicked, yelled at, or abused in some other way. However, it often involves more, including financial exploitation, abandonment, confinement, willful deprivation, and neglect, as well as emotional and sexual abuse.
According to the latest statistics, one in every 10 Americans over the age of 60 experience some form and degree of elder abuse. While experts do not have an exact number of incidents, they agree that roughly 5 million people experience elder abuse annually. This form of abuse also affects both men and woman.
What makes this so disgusting is that in approximately 60 percent of reported incidents, the abuse is at the hands of a spouse, adult child, or some other family member, with friends, caregivers, and strangers accounting for the rest. Even more disturbing is the fact that about 50 percent of all abused individuals suffer from either dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, making it impossible for them to speak out.
Know the Signs
If you have a loved one living with a family member, friend, or getting care from outside help, there are things you can do to protect that person. For starters, you should learn the telltale signs of elder abuse.
- Unexplained bruises, burns, cuts, pressure marks, and broken bones
- Withdrawal or disinterest in usual activities, exaggerated depression, frequent arguments with or tension between the individual and suspected perpetrator, and a quick change in the level of alertness
- A sudden change in financial means or situations, such as missing money, unaccounted for bank withdrawals, and so on
- Weight loss, poor hygiene, bedsores, and medical needs that go unattended
- Threats, disparaging remarks, belittling, and various other forms of control and power at the hand of the suspect
If you notice any signs of elder abuse, try to speak with your loved one to get as much information as possible. Then, arrange for that person to go to a different relative’s or friend’s home or nursing facility. If you think the abuse comes from an outside caregiver, contact the agency immediately and either recommend someone else or use a different service. In all situations, it is imperative that you take quick and appropriate action.
You should also contact your local law enforcement since elder abuse is a crime. Fortunately, police officers and prosecutors now have specialized training that helps them identify these cases. Ultimately, this is your best chance of getting the abuser arrested and prosecuted. In addition to law enforcement, you should report the situation to your local Adult Protective Services and Long-term Care Ombudsman.
Finally, speak with an attorney who specializes in cases of elder abuse. During a situation such as this, you need legal resources. Your attorney will provide you with valuable information and guide you through the process of taking the abuser to court. Dealing with a case of elder abuse against someone you love is heart-wrenching, and trying to get through the legal process on your own is stressful. With a reputable attorney in your corner, you will get the legal clarity you need to move forward.