Nearly 1,000,000 cases of elder abuse are reported in the United States per year. Only one of five cases are properly recorded and followed-up on.
What is elder abuse? There are different ways in which an elderly individual may be found in an abusive situation:
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Any physical pain or injury inflicted upon an elder by a person who is a caregiver of, or who stands in a position of trust with that elder. This includes but is not limited to: direct beatings, sexual assault, physical restraint, and prolonged deprivation of food or water. Possible physical abuse indicators are cuts, lacerations, puncture wounds, welts, discoloration, bruises, poor skin condition or hygiene, uncared for injuries, absence of hair or hemorrhaging below scalp, dehydration or malnourishment without illness, burns (from cigarettes, acids, rope or chain friction etc…), soiled bed or clothing.
Any theft or misuse of an elder's money or property. Possible indicators of financial abuse include: unusual activity in bank accounts; seemingly different older person's signature on checks, or checks signed when the older person cannot write; changes in creation of will or powers of attorney when older person is unable to make such decisions; a caregiver's unusual concern about excessive amount of money spent in the care of the older person; numerous unpaid older person's bills; placement in nursing home or residential care facility not commensurate with alleged size of estate, lack of amenities (such as a TV, proper clothing or grooming items that are clearly affordable by the estate); missing valuables ( such as jewelry or art); deliberate isolation by a housekeeper from friends and family resulting in a caregiver's total control over the elder.
The failure of any person having the care or custody of an elder to provide that degree of care which a reasonable person in a like position would provide. It includes FAILURE to:
Assist in personal hygiene or providing clothing to the elder; or to provide medical attention for the physical and mental health needs of the elder (unless elder refuses treatment); or failure to protect the elder from health and safety hazards. Possible signs of neglect: Dirt, fecal/urine smell in elder's living environment; rashes, sores, lice on elder; elder is poorly clothed, malnourished, dehydrated; any untreated medical condition.
Failure to provide for self through inattention or dissipation. The identification of this depends on assessing the elder's ability to choose a lifestyle versus a recent change in the elder's ability to manage.
-Psychological / Emotional abuse-
The willful infliction of mental suffering by an elder's trusted caregiver. Examples are: verbal assaults, threats, instilling fear, intimidation, humiliation or isolation of an elder. Possible indicators of such abuse of an elder are their: fear, depression, helplessness, denial, disorientation, implausible stories, hesitation to talk openly.
The desertion or willful forsaking of an elder by any person having the care and custody of that elder under circumstances in which a reasonable person would continue to provide care and custody.
There is often great reluctance and/or fear from the elder to report abuse. Threats of placement in a nursing home or shame for a possible family member being involved can prevent an elder from seeking help. This is why sensitivity to these issues must be employed when someone wants to help in suspected abuse cases. In all cases the elder has the right to determine his/her affairs to the best of his/ her ability.
Any person coming across a situation of suspected abuse is strongly encouraged to report his/her findings. Symptoms and conditions of the abuse should be reported clearly, specifically and objectively. When legal action against these cases is intended, the reporter should include witnesses (contact info and statements), photographs (of wounds or injuries, living conditions, or a room or a bed; police department or an emergency room may photograph emergency situations), and records (from public help agencies or elders' patterns and history).
Elder abuse is a very fast escalating problem in our country which all too often goes unseen and unpunished.
At Attorney Search Network, we are dedicated to providing you with the right assessment and counsel specialized in the rights and defense of our elder population.