In the United States, one in ten seniors experiences some form of elder abuse, but it is estimated that only one in 23 reports the abuse. In 90 percent of the cases, the abuser is a family member. These are tragic numbers, and, as elder law attorneys, the statistics concern us greatly. If you have an elderly loved one in your life, there are steps you can take to make sure they do not become a victim of abuse. You can start by learning about the various forms of abuse and how you can put a stop to it if your loved one is a victim.
Types of Elder Abuse and Neglect
The elderly—particularly those who live alone—are vulnerable to various forms of abuse, including physical harm, neglect, and financial exploitation. According to the National Institute on Aging, people over the age of 60 often suffer the following at the hands of caregivers and family members:
- Physical abuse. Frustrated or angry caregivers may cause bodily harm by hitting, pushing, slapping, pinching, or kicking the person they are supposed to be taking care of. Caregivers may also cause physical harm by handling a disabled person roughly as they take them to the toilet or change their bedding.
- Sexual abuse. A weak or incapacitated elderly person is an easy target for a sexual predator in a nursing home or hospital. If the victim is unable to communicate, this kind of abuse can continue over a long period of time.
- Emotional abuse. Threatening, criticizing, isolating, and ignoring an elderly person are all forms of emotional or psychological abuse. This kind of treatment can accelerate the progression of dementia, creating a vicious cycle of worsening abuse.
- Neglect. Failing to give medication, food, fluids, and attention to an isolated elderly person is a form of abuse by neglect. Failing to respond to an older person’s needs and withholding necessary care can cause irreversible physical harm.
- Abandonment. When a family member fails to provide care for an elderly person in need, he is endangering her life by abandonment. Given that there are public services available to help elderly people in need, this should never happen.
Financial exploitation is another form of elder abuse. It is estimated that seniors across the country lose over $36 billion to theft by family members and scams by strangers every year. Some typical forms of financial abuse of the elderly include family members or caregivers who:
- Forge checks
- Take retirement or Social Security benefits
- Use credit cards
- Withdraw from bank accounts
- Change names in a Will, life insurance policy, or title to a house
In addition to financial abuse by people they know, the elderly are particular targets for email and telephone scams. They are often all too willing to give out personal financial information over the phone or to send money, thinking they are helping a cause they support or a person in need.
How You Can Protect Your Loved One From Abuse
If you live nearby and are able to visit your loved one in her home or in a care facility, it is important to be alert for signs of abuse, such as physical injuries, depression, weight loss, and uncleanliness. If you suspect that your loved one is being abused or neglected in a facility, you should report your concerns to the management. If you suspect sexual abuse, you should call the police.
To protect your loved one from financial exploitation, you should speak to an elder law attorney about getting documents in order, such as a Financial Power of Attorney, if she is capable of providing consent, or legal guardianship if she is not. By taking control of your loved one’s finances, you can protect them from further losses.
Call Ross & Shoalmire for Additional Ways to Help Your Elderly Family Member
Whether your loved one is in crisis and you need immediate help, or you want to plan ahead to ensure that she does not become the victim of abuse in the future, contact our estate planning and elder law firm to learn about your options. We are committed to the physical and financial wellbeing of the elderly in our community. Call us or fill out the contact form on this page to get in touch with us today.