Elder Abuse: An Overview

If you have an elderly loved one who requires inpatient or frequent medical care, you may be concerned about elder abuse. Defined as a single or repeated act, or a lack of action, which causes harm to an elderly person, elder abuse is a serious matter that deserves serious attention.

elder abuse

Keep reading for more on elder abuse, including information on types of abuse, legal ramifications, warning signs and steps victims should take in the event of abuse or maltreatment.

Defining Elder Abuse

While laws can vary, the following types of abuse are common factors in elder abuse lawsuits:

  • Physical abuse. This includes unnecessary or forceful restraint, either by physical force or drugs, as well as hitting, slapping, kicking, etc.
  • Neglect. The failure of caregivers or responsible parties to provide the proper care to an elderly individual. This includes healthcare, food, shelter, safety and protection from harm.
  • Sexual abuse. Non-consensual sexual conduct in any shape or form constitutes as elder abuse.
  • Emotional abuse. Inflicting emotional or psychological pain, distress or anguish is abuse. This includes verbal abuse as well as threatening, humiliating, intimidating, etc.
  • Financial exploitation. This includes theft or misuse of funds, property and/or other assets belonging to an elderly individual.
  • Abandonment. Abandonment occurs when a caregiver desserts an elder, leaving him or her vulnerable to danger, illness, exposure, etc.

The Warning Signs of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is associated with a number of warning signs. And while some patients may present no symptoms whatsoever, common signs include the following:

  • Signs of physical abuse. These can include bruising, broken bones, welts, etc.
  • Signs of neglect. Signs of neglect often include unexplained weight loss or other signs of malnutrition, bedsores, poor hygiene, medical needs that are left unattended, etc.
  • Emotional withdrawal. Seniors who have been abused, be it physically, emotionally or sexually, may withdraw from normal activities and relationships, as well as display signs of depression, hostility and/or mood swings.
  • Sudden or unexplained financial difficulties, which could be the result of theft or exploitation.
  • Unusual or unexplained changes in overall wellness, alertness or demeanor. For example, changes in alertness could signal unnecessary chemical restraint or other types of abuse.

Elder Abuse and the Law

Under federal law, the elderly are legally protected against any type of abuse or maltreatment. The Older Americans Act of 1965, as well as the 1992 Vulnerable Elder Rights Protection Program and the Elder Justice Act of 2009, were designed to promote the creation of state laws that would address the unique needs and concerns of the elderly population. When elder abuse occurs, victims can also initiate a civil lawsuit against the abuser, the facility where the abuse took place, the abuser’s supervisors and anyone else who may have participated in, concealed or facilitated the abuse in question.

What to Do when Elder Abuse Occurs

If you or a loved one has experienced elder abuse, it should be reported to the authorities as quickly as possible. If you or the victim is in immediate danger, call 911; otherwise, abuse should be reported to your state’s Adult Protective Services (APS) agency.

When reporting abuse, be sure to give the authorities all the available facts. This includes signs or evidence of abuse and information regarding the victim’s health, as well as available information on the abuser in question. This can include specific names, the location where the alleged abuse took place, etc.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of elder abuse, remember that help is available. In addition to filing criminal charges, victims are often entitled to damages as a result of theft, pain and suffering and other factors. If you suspect elder abuse is taking place, don’t wait another minute. Report it, today.