Seniors are one of the most vulnerable individuals in our society. As our bodies age, our capability for total autonomy tends to deteriorate. Many seniors also tend to grow socially isolated or mentally impaired as time goes on. Unfortunately, all of these factors make seniors particularly susceptible to abuse, both in and out of nursing homes and other elder care facilities. These problems are likely to worsen as America’s elderly population steadily increases. We all want the best for our loved ones, especially as they grow more vulnerable. Do you know how to spot the signs of elder abuse?
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) estimates that 1 in 10 Americans aged 60 years and older have been the victim of elder abuse. It also tends to be an underreported phenomenon, with one study estimating that the authorities only hear about 1 in 14 cases. Both men and women can be victims of elder abuse. Shockingly, it often starts within the home. Some studies estimate that family members are the perpetrators in nearly 60 percent of elder abuse and neglect incidents, with two-thirds of the perpetrators being adult children or spouses.
Elder abuse comes in many different forms, including but not limited to: physical, emotional, sexual, financial, and neglect. It is not the same thing as nursing home abuse, the phenomenon where nursing home staff inflicts negligence or intentional harm on their residents. Elder abuse can happen anytime, anywhere, and between any two people. Thus, you can consider nursing home abuse as a type of elder abuse—but not vice versa.
In physical elder abuse, the perpetrator enacts physical pain or injury upon the victim. Elders often lack the strength to defend themselves from physical attacks, making this one of the most common types of elder abuse. Physical elder abuse frequently includes, but is not limited to:
Signs of physical abuse are often easier to recognize than others. Look out for the following signs:
Emotional elder abuse can be both verbal and nonverbal. In any case, emotional abuse leaves the victim extraordinarily distressed. Emotional elder abuse frequently includes, but is not limited to:
Victims of emotional elder abuse may exhibit the following symptoms:
Sexual elder abuse involves any unwanted touching or other non-consensual sexual advances towards the elder. It is important to note that an elder is unable to consent when they are unable to understand, threatened, physically forced, suffering from dementia, or are otherwise incapacitated. Sexual elder abuse frequently involves, but is not limited to:
Victims of sexual elder abuse may exhibit the following symptoms:
Neglect is also a form of elder abuse. Generally speaking, elders become more and more dependent on others as they get older. They may no longer be able to be fully autonomous. A caregiver must meet a certain duty of care to ensure an elder’s quality of life. Elder neglect frequently involves, but is not limited to:
Victims of elder neglect may exhibit the following symptoms:
Financial elder abuse, or financial exploitation, refers to the misuse or withholding of an elder’s resources. Institutions, caregivers, or other individuals can perpetrate financial elder abuse. Financial abuse can take many forms and frequently includes, but is not limited to:
The following are common signs of financial abuse:
Elder abuse is uniquely traumatizing. Victims have a 300 percent higher risk of death than those who have not been victimized, and financial elder abuse costs American seniors anywhere from around $2.9 billion to $36.5 billion annually. Fortunately, most states have their own penalties for elder abuse. Additionally, more and more law enforcement officers and prosecutors across the country receive training specifically on how to handle cases of elder abuse. If you suspect that a loved one is being victimized, contact the local Adult Protective Services, Long-Term Care Ombudsman, or police station immediately. You can also prevent your chances of being victimized by planning for your future, staying socially involved, and knowing your rights.
Everyone deserves to live out their twilight years in peace. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for elders to fall prey to various forms of abuse—whether it be from their nursing homes or even their loved ones. If you or a loved one have recently fallen victim to elder abuse, 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.