Identifying and Preventing Elder Abuse and Neglect

Posted on Monday, May 7th, 2018 at 6:10 pm    

As our loved ones age, they may begin to struggle to perform daily activities such as bathing, changing clothes, cooking or taking medications. In situations like these, they may require a caregiver – either in-home or in a community – who can care for them and fulfill their daily needs at all hours. However, due to their frailty and inability to complete normal functions without assistance, seniors who have caregivers are often a target for abuse or neglect.

This unacceptable behavior is shockingly common in the United States. According to the National Council on Aging, roughly 10 percent of Americans over 60 years old have experienced some form of elder abuse.1 The key to stopping abuse and neglect lies in identifying it and taking immediate action.

What Is Elder Abuse and Neglect?

Just like children or spouses, seniors can be victims of abuse. Elder abuse is an overarching term describing the physical, sexual, emotional, financial or neglectful mistreatment of an older adult. Though many tales of elder abuse that reach the media include an abusive professional nurse or caregiver, perpetrators of elder abuse can be anyone, from adult children and siblings to spouses and friends.

  • Physical abuse – any infliction of physical pain on a senior
  • Sexual abuse – nonconsensual or forced touching, rape or other sexual activity where the adult cannot understand, doesn’t consent or is forced
  • Emotional abuse – threats, verbal berating, harassment or intimidation
  • Financial abuse – withholding or misusing the senior’s money or resources
  • Neglect – purposefully withholding medication, medical care or assistance, refusing to provide basic needs like food, clothing or shelter or simply failing to fulfill everyday needs

How Can I Tell If My Loved One Is Being Abused or Neglected?

Physical abuse and neglect can leave clear, visible warning signs all family members and friends should keep an eye out for when interacting with their loved one.

  • Physical abuse can be identified by bruises, broken bones, scratches, burns or pressure marks on the body.
  • Neglect is characterized by unusual changes in their body, such as bedsores, poor hygiene, weight loss, frequent medical emergencies or missing medical appointments or medication times.

Abuse that doesn’t leave marks on the body may be harder to identify. If you suspect emotional or financial abuse, spend plenty of time with your loved one to try and recognize signs of problems.

  • Emotional abuse can cause withdrawal from their social group or favorite activities, depression or fear and anger geared toward the caregiver.
  • Financial abuse is recognizable by a senior’s sudden inability to discuss finances, lack of knowledge of their own accounts or unexpected financial hardship.

What Can I Do to Stop Abuse?

The best way to put an end to your loved one’s abuse or neglect is to become their caregiver yourself. Unfortunately, most working adults have their own careers, families and duties, leaving little time to provide full-time care to their aging loved ones. There is no shame in hiring a professional caregiver or moving your loved one into a specialized community that is equipped handle their needs with compassionate and attentive care. However, if you cannot provide 24/7 care for your parent, grandparent or friend, remaining vigilant and present in their lives is the next best thing.

The more often you see your loved one and speak with them, the more aware you’ll be of sudden changes to their disposition or quality of life. If you suspect your loved one is being abused, be sure to report it immediately to your local police.

Personal Injury and Negligence Attorneys in Birmingham, AL

If your loved one was the victim of abuse or neglect, they likely had to undergo even more extensive medical treatment to undo the physical and mental wounds inflicted by their abuser. You and your parent, grandparent or friend shouldn’t be the ones footing the bill for the inhumane actions of another.

At Farris, Riley & Pitt, LLP, we take every case seriously and aim to produce the best possible outcome. You and your aging loved one deserve attentive legal counsel during this painful time. Even if money is tight or your loved one was the victim of financial abuse that has left them without money for a lawyer, you can rely on us to serve you. If we don’t win, you don’t pay. Contact us online or call (205) 324-1212 to schedule your consultation today!

1 https://www.ncoa.org/public-policy-action/elder-justice/elder-abuse-facts/

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