This guest post is from Sophia Marie Francis, who recently graduated from law school and has an interest in personal injury law. She currently writes for the law firm of Welebir, Tierney, and Weck.
Respect your elders. We’re all taught that saying as children, but for a growing number of individuals that bit of advice didn’t stick. As the number of elderly individuals increases, the reported number of elder abuse incidences keeps increasing as well. But for a variety of reasons many struggle with recognizing elder abuse, even among members of their own family.
Many families assume that elder abuse is only a problem in long-term care facilities responsible for the care of seniors. However, this is not always the case. Many cases of abuse take place in the senior’s own home or in the home of a relative who is taking care of them. Such cases are often the result of an overwhelmed or neglectful caregiver. Other cases stem from those close to the senior attempting to take advantage of them financially.
As elders age they often lose their ability to defend themselves from abuse in all of its many forms. They may not even recognize it as such. Their vision, hearing, physical and cognitive abilities may drop off, leaving them easy prey for the abuser. In the U.S. there are more than half a million reported cases of abuse against the elderly each year. Unfortunately it is suspected that the number of actual cases is far higher because the victims don’t report it or their loved ones don’t recognize it or hesitate to speak up, especially if the suspected abuser is another family member.
It is imperative for loved ones to be vigilant about the care of their elders. They must be on the lookout for any activity or behavior that doesn’t seem right. Simply asking the senior if they are being victimized in any fashion may not yield the truth. As mentioned earlier, their physical and cognitive faculties may preclude them from properly assessing their own situation. In addition, like their younger counterparts to abuse, they may rely on their abuser to the extent that they fear retribution for saying anything.
The various forms of elder abuse include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and financial exploitation. Physical abuse may not be in the form most of us would readily recognize, such as physical assaults. It often comes in the form of inappropriate use of restraints, drugs, or confinement. Any physical injuries such as bruises shouldn’t be dismissed by thinking the elderly are just more prone to bumps and falls.
Emotional abuse arises when the senior feels emotional pain or distress. Verbal abuse is the most prominent form of emotional abuse. It can take the form of humiliation, ridicule, habitual blaming, or intimidation. Its other forms include the opposite end of the spectrum, including ignoring their needs, isolating them from friends or activities, or terrorizing them.
Unfortunately seniors also fall prey to sexual abuse as well. This may not be limited to physical sexual contact, but may include being exposed to pornographic material or being forced to watch sexual activity. Financial exploitation stems from the unauthorized use of a senior’s funds or property by a caregiver or scam artist. This can range from stealing cash to misusing household goods to identity theft.
If you suspect that a loved one or acquaintance is the victim of abuse don’t hesitate to act. Call the adult protective services in your area. Another source of information is the Eldercare Locator. This federal program has specially trained operators that can refer you to a local agency that can help. Their number is 1-800-677-1116. The law surrounding neglect and abuse of the elderly is often complicated, as each case is unique. For more information on the subject don’t hesitate to contact an elder abuse lawyer.