Do You Know How to Recognize the Signs of Elder Abuse?

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Do You Know How to Recognize the Signs of Elder Abuse?

Do You Know How to Recognize the Signs of Elder Abuse?

Choosing a nursing home is one of the most important decisions you will ever have to make. Everyone wants to know that their loved ones will be cared for during their twilight years. Unfortunately, not every elder care facility has its residents’ best interests in mind. In fact, some studies estimate that around 2 million seniors (aged 65 years or over) have been mistreated, exploited, or neglected by a caregiver.

Nursing home residents are some of the most vulnerable members of our population, especially if they require some form of extended medical attention. Both federal and state law afford certain rights and protections to all nursing home residents in the United States. Unfortunately, elder abuse frequently goes unnoticed. Do you know how to recognize the signs?

Defining Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is a broad term applying to abuse of any elderly individuals, regardless of whether or not they are residents of nursing homes or long-term care facilities. The elderly are at particular risk for abuse because of their stage of life. As they age, they may begin to lack both the cognitive and physical abilities to be fully autonomous. Abused elders may be afraid to report their experiences or even unaware that what they are enduring may constitute abuse at all.

Nursing home abuse is a particular type of elder abuse. Nursing homes and other elder care facilities have a legal obligation to protect their residents from harm. This means they Do You Know How to Recognize the Signs of Elder Abuse?must take all proper precautions to ensure that the environment is as safe as possible. Facilities should be performing adequate background checks on all staff members and be as transparent as possible in their care. If they fail to do so, they may be held accountable for their negligence in court.

Of course, elder abuse does not take place just in nursing homes. It can occur in long-term care facilities, hospitals, assisted living facilities, the senior’s home, a family member’s home, or even shared public spaces. Simply put, elder abuse can happen anytime and anywhere. There are also different types of elder abuse: physical, emotional, sexual, financial, and neglect.

Physical Abuse

Because physical strength is one of the first things to go with age, the elderly tend to be at a higher risk of being physically abused. Physical abuse is exactly what it sounds like: It is any sort of abuse that involves physical force resulting in bodily injury, pain, or impairment. The following are common examples of physical elder abuse:

  • Burning.
  • Force-feeding.
  • Improper use of restraints.
  • Inappropriate use of sedatives or other drugs.
  • Kicking or shoving.
  • Physical punishment.
  • Slapping, hitting, and/or punching.

It is important to remember that this list is not exhaustive. Physical abuse can occur in any number of ways. Oftentimes, it may be more helpful to look for the signs. After all, any type of abuse tends to happen behind closed doors. Take note if you find your loved one suffering from any of the following:

  • Bedsores.
  • Broken bones.
  • Bruising.
  • Depression or anxiety, especially about being left alone.
  • Internal bleeding or injuries.
  • Restraint marks.
  • Sudden changes in mood or behavior.
  • Welts or lacerations.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse refers to abuse that is not necessarily physical but instead includes verbal or nonverbal forms of abuse to make the elder feel entirely dependent on their caretaker. The caretaker may humiliate or intimidate the elder, perhaps even making threats to their well-being. They may also ignore or infantilize the elder. Social isolation is often an integral part of emotional abuse, so as to make the elder feel totally helpless. Verbal insults and demeaning remarks are also common.

Signs of emotional abuse are often harder to recognize than signs of physical abuse. However, if you notice your loved one becoming increasingly unresponsive or withdrawn, this may be one of the first warning signs of abuse. Elders suffering from emotional abuse may also show signs of depression, agitation, emotional turmoil, and/or increased anxiety. They may even exhibit behavior similar to dementia. 

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse refers to abuse that involves any sort of unwanted touching and/or non-consensual sex act. It is important to note that elders who have dementia or are otherwise incapacitated are fundamentally incapable of consenting. Sexual abuse can come in many forms, including but not limited to the following:

  • Being forced to watch others perform sexual acts.
  • Being forced to perform sexual acts.
  • Coerced nudity or intercourse.
  • Having nude photos taken of the elder.
  • Unwanted touching of the genitals or buttocks.

Victims of elder sexual abuse may exhibit any combination of the following signs:

  • Bleeding from the anal or genital area.
  • Bloody, stained, or torn underwear.
  • Bruises on genitals, breasts, and/or buttocks.
  • Unexplained genital infections or STDs.

Financial Abuse

Elders may fall victim to financial abuse from institutions or even their family members. This form of abuse refers to any action that involves taking money or property from the elderly without consent. It may even be obtained through fraud. The following are some of the most common examples of financial elder abuse:

  • Having the elder’s signature forged.
  • Improper use of power of attorney.
  • Stolen possessions or money.
  • Signing financial documents under coercion.

You may want to ensure that your loved one is not suffering from financial abuse if you notice any of the following:

  • Changes to banking or estate.
  • Changes to legal documents, including the caregiver’s name, suddenly appearing on bank cards or other documents.
  • Unexplained ATM purchases or transfers of assets.

Elder Neglect

If a caretaker fails to take adequate care for an elder, they are guilty of elder neglect. This means failing to provide the elder with proper food and/or water, failing to maintain their basic and daily hygiene needs, withholding medication from the elder, and/or supervising the elder improperly. Victims of elder neglect may suffer from untreated bedsores, malnutrition, dehydration, sunburns, and/or foul odor.

Seeking Legal Help

If you or a loved one have recently fallen victim to elder abuse, we at Injury Victim Law may be able to help. Though we are a Colorado-based firm, our team of experts and investigators is ready and available to assist personal injury victims all across the country. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation with one of our experienced nationwide elder abuse attorneys. Let us fight for you.

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