What Is Elder Abuse & How Can I report It?
When elderly individuals are no longer able to care for themselves independently, they often rely on family members, in-home caregivers, or nursing home providers to get the level of assistance they require. In many cases, there are multiple people who are collaborating in an older person’s care, which makes it that much more important to be able to identify the signs of elder abuse. Unfortunately, elder abuse is a very common occurrence that affects approximately 1 in 6 Americans over the age of 60, as reported by the World Health Organization (WHO).
It can be difficult to detect the early signs of elder abuse if you don’t know what to look for. The elderly victim may be too scared to report the abuse themselves, or they may be physically or mentally unable to do so. Understanding the signs is crucial to putting a stop to the abuse, holding the abuser accountable and reporting elder abuse.
Knowing the Signs
Elder abuse occurs when the intentional or negligent actions of a responsible caregiver cause harm, or even the serious risk of harm, to an older individual. Here are some signs to watch out for.
1. Physical Abuse
This is usually the most obvious form of abuse. While occasional injuries may be normal, frequent cuts, bruises, and broken bones could be a sign that the person is being abused. Any type of unexplained injury should be documented. Elderly individuals who have been physically abused may begin to show signs of psychological or emotional trauma. They may appear afraid of their caregiver, be unwilling to discuss their experiences, and become withdrawn from family members and friends. They may feel depressed, developing feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness brought on by their situation.
There are many ways an elderly person can be neglected by their caregivers. Seniors who have been neglected might:
- Constantly appear dirty or disheveled
- Have frequent bedsores from lack of activity
- Experience a rapid decline in mobility
- Be malnourished or dehydrated
- Have poor oral health
- Be unable to tell you about their medication history
Neglected older adults may be left alone for long periods of time, forcing them to tend to their own needs. If they have trouble getting around independently, they can fall and injure themselves. If they are unable to walk entirely, they may sit in their bed all day, unable to get to the bathroom or get food for themselves. This can lead to soiled bedding, unsanitary living conditions, and adverse health effects due to malnutrition. Caregivers in nursing homes and assisted living facilities have a duty to provide a standard level of care and attention to each resident. If they fail in this duty, they should be held responsible for their negligence.
3. Financial Exploitation
This type of abuse involves the mistreatment of an elderly person’s financial assets. The abuser may perpetuate investment scams, steal money and property, and fail to pay for the senior’s medical expenses and other bills. Misappropriating these funds can have lasting consequences as the person is left without the funds that they’ve saved to provide for themselves and their families in their later years. Unfortunately, the party responsible is usually a family member or another trusted individual. Here are some tips to prevent elder financial exploitation for your loved one:
- Never give out their personal information to a stranger over the phone.
- Have them establish a financial power of attorney. This will make sure the right person is managing their finances should they become incapacitated.
- Beware of investment opportunities that seem too good to be true.
- Consult with an attorney before allowing them to sign any financial document.
- Shred receipts, bank statements, and other financial records before throwing them away.
- Have them review their credit report at least once a year for inaccuracies.
- Never hire anyone to assist them without first checking references or credentials.
Reporting Elder Abuse
Family members are often the first ones to notice abuse. If you believe your loved one is being abused in a long-term care facility, you should report it to the facility administrator. California has mandated reporting requirements that state anyone who is responsible for the care of an elderly person should be reporting elder abuse or suspected abuse. This includes at-home caregivers, long-term health care providers, and facility administrators. If they fail to report the abuse and are later found to have known about it, they can be heavily fined and imprisoned.
If conditions do not improve, you can get help from your Local Ombudsman Program. This program investigates complaints regarding elder care in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. They also advocate for the changes necessary to improve the quality of life for older adults. For seniors who don’t reside in a facility, you can report abuse to California’s Adult Protective Services (APS). This agency will investigate the report and, if needed, provide the victim with community resources and other options to keep them safe from harm.
If your elderly loved one has experienced serious abuse, you should contact 911 immediately. Law enforcement will investigate the incident and determine if any further action is needed. It’s a good idea to document any proof, including:
- Notes of changes in health and behavior
- Photographs of sustained injuries
- Photographs of living conditions
- Medication logs
- Medical records concerning the abuse
- Written statements from the victim and any witnesses
- Copies of any incident reports you may have filed
It’s imperative to contact an elder abuse lawyer right away if you think your elderly loved one has been abused. The information above should be included in your claim against the caregiver and/or facility. The more detailed you can be, the better when reporting elder abuse.
Experienced Elder Abuse Lawyer
The Law Office of Kyle W. Jones works hard to protect the rights of elder abuse victims in the Bakersfield area. Our goal is to hold abusers accountable for their actions so that they’re never again in the position to hurt anyone else. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation and be sure to read additional information on elder abuse and reporting elder abuse: Fight for Elder Abuse Victims.