Unfortunately, elder abuse and neglect is a growing problem. Each year it is estimated that more than 2 million older Americans fall victim to physical, psychological, financial, and other forms of abuse and neglect and the number may even be higher as many cases go undetected or unreported. Sometimes this abuse and neglect occurs in adult care or nursing homes, but often it occurs by someone in the home, either family members or paid care givers.
Elder abuse and neglect includes, but is not limited to:
- Physical abuse. Use of force to threaten or physically injure a vulnerable elder.
- Emotional abuse. Verbal attacks, threats, rejection, isolation, or belittling acts that cause or could cause mental anguish, pain, or distress to an elder.
- Sexual abuse. Sexual contact that is forced, tricked, threatened, or otherwise coerced upon another person, including anyone who is unable to grant consent.
- Exploitation. Theft, fraud, misuse or neglect of authority, and use of undue influence as a lever to gain control over an older person’s money or property.
- Neglect. A caregiver’s failure or refusal to provide for a vulnerable elder’s safety, physical, or emotional needs.
- Abandonment. Desertion of a frail or vulnerable elder by anyone with a duty of care.
It is often difficult to detect and investigate elder abuse and neglect because victims may not be physically or mentally able to report their abuse, or they may be isolated and too afraid or ashamed to tell someone. As a concerned relative or friend, it is up to you to make sure you protect your elders from abuse. Signs of elder abuse or neglect include:
- Caregiver or family members controlling elder’s actions: whom they see and talk to, where they go.
- Caregiver or family members isolating elder from family and friends.
- Caregiver or family members appearing to be indifferent to elder, seeming apathetic or hostile.
- Minimizing an elder’s injuries, blaming victim or others for the abuse, neglect, or exploitation.
- Calling elder nasty or obscene names.
- Slap marks, pressure marks, and certain types of burns or blisters (e.g., cigarette burns) should cause suspicion whatever the explanation.
- Sudden change in finances and accounts, altered wills and trusts, unusual bank withdrawals, checks written as loans or gifts, and loss of property may suggest elder exploitation.
- Untreated bedsores, need for medical or dental care, unclean clothing, poor hygiene, overgrown hair and nails, and unusual weight loss are signs of possible neglect.
If you have concerns, trust your instincts. Report all suspected abuse to the police. But, often the police can do nothing more than take a report because there is no evidence. Babnick and Associates can use a variety of creative investigative methods and techniques to find out what is really happening. If the investigation uncovers wrongdoing, the results of the investigation can be turned over to authorities for criminal prosecution. Additionally, in the case of adult care and nursing homes, evidence of abuse or neglect can be turned over to licensing authorities to protect your loved one.