You likely have a loved one that is elderly and that may be particularly vulnerable to elder abuse and neglect. If so, there are things you can do to protect your loved one from becoming a victim of elder abuse. Learning everything you can about elder abuse and neglect with particular emphasis on learning to recognize the signs of elder abuse and neglect is a good place to start. To help you do that, here’s some important information along with a list of signs to look for that may indicate a loved one is the victim of elder abuse and/or neglect.
What Is Elder Abuse and Neglect?
Sadly, we hear news reports about some of the most egregious instances of elder abuse and neglect on a regular basis. Abuse and neglect of the elderly, however, is not always so outrageous that it warrants a spot on the nightly news. To protect your loved one, therefore, you need to start by understanding the various types of elder abuse and neglect. According to the National Council on Aging, all of the following are types of elder abuse/neglect:
- Physical abuse means inflicting physical pain or injury upon an older adult.
- Sexual abuse means touching, fondling, intercourse, or any other sexual activity with an older adult, when the older adult is unable to understand, unwilling to consent, threatened, or physically forced.
- Emotional abuse means verbal assaults, threats of abuse, harassment, or intimidation.
- Confinement means restraining or isolating an older adult, other than for medical reasons.
- Passive neglect is a caregiver’s failure to provide an older adult with life’s necessities, including, but not limited to, food, clothing, shelter, or medical care.
- Willful deprivation means denying an older adult medication, medical care, shelter, food, a therapeutic device, or other physical assistance, and exposing that person to the risk of physical, mental, or emotional harm—except when the older, competent adult has expressed a desire to go without such care.
- Financial exploitation means the misuse or withholding of an older adult’s resources by another.
Signs of Elder Abuse and Neglect
You may have to spot the signs of abuse and/or neglect yourself because victims often fail to report it themselves. That means you need to know what to look for, such as:
- Excessive and/or unexplained physical injuries
- Bruising, particularly around wrists or ankles that may be from restraints
- Unexplained weight loss
- Change in hygiene habits
- Mood swings
- Angry outbursts with no apparent cause
- Depression or withdrawal
- Failure to take medication as prescribed
- Doctor visits cancelled or missed
- A particular dislike or avoidance of a staff member
- Money or valuables missing
- Unexplained expenses
- Identification documents missing
While there are, of course, nursing homes out there that provide compassionate and highly competent care to the residents, even the best nursing home can inadvertently hire someone who does not treat the patients appropriately. Consequently, you need to continue to be on the lookout for signs of abuse and/or neglect long after making your initial evaluation of the facility. If you are concerned that you have spotted what you believe may be signs indicative of elder abuse/neglect, contact law enforcement authorities and an experienced elder law attorney right away. Along with potentially rising to the level of a criminal offense, elder abuse can also form the basis of a civil lawsuit against the abuser and/or facility that allowed the abuse to occur.
Please download our FREE estate planning checklist. Our firm does not handle elder abuse cases. However if you have additional questions or concerns about ways to avoid elder abuse or neglect, , contact us at the Northern California Center for Estate Planning & Elder Law by calling (916)-437-3500 or by filling out our online contact form.