Elder abuse affects thousands of mature individuals in nursing home and various other care settings. These individuals are more vulnerable to the actions of others and often depend on them for basic needs. Seniors are often abused by nursing home staff, friends and even family members.
While specific laws may vary from state to state, the common definition of elder abuse is the intentional or negligent act of a person that causes serious harm to a vulnerable older adult. Elder abuse comes in the various forms such as:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional abuse
Risks of elderly physical abuse is often higher with individuals with memory problems or those with long-term conditions such as diabetes, paralysis and stroke. The caretaker may live in the same house as the senior, be intensely stressed, have a personality or mental disorder or may abuse alcohol or drugs. The older adult may experience symptoms such as bruises, signs of depression, experience changes in financial situations or begin to have strained interactions with family members and friends.
Sexual abuse of the elderly is often understudied, but the general definition of the incident is any unwanted sexual contact with a person over 60. Pelvic injury, stained undergarments, a sudden difficulty in walking and sitting, irritated genitals and the presence of a sexually transmitted disease are some of the indications of elder sexual abuse.
Neglect is one of the most common forms of elder abuse. Signs of neglect include severe weight loss, dirty or unsafe living conditions, health issues suddenly increasing and health conditions such as pressure sores, hypothermia or dehydration.
Exploration of the elderly is the act of cheating of a senior of their personal property. Signs of exploitation include the sudden inability to pay bills, a will has suddenly changed to include new individuals, the senior is isolated from family, the senior begins to receive care below what one can afford and missing belongings.
Emotional abuse is the maltreatment of an elderly person that causes distress and emotional pain. Examples of emotional abuse include humiliation, scapegoating and threats and yelling directed towards the individual. Signs of emotional elderly abuse include depression, irateness and withdrawal.
Self-neglect is largely a hidden form of abuse, and detection is more difficult to detect. Elder self-neglect is defined as an elderly individual’s inability to perform essential self-care due to physical and mental impairment. Signs of self-neglect include inadequate personal hygiene, the refusal or poor management of medication taking, unpaid bills, an unhealthy living environment and malnutrition and dehydration. In these cases, this form of abuse should be reported, and the case is often coupled with neglect or abandonment from a caretaker if this situation occurs while an individual is under someone’s care.
Abandonment of the elderly is the purposeful withdrawal of care from a caretaker that an individual depends on. If an senior appears lost, confused and alone with poor hygiene, it could be an indicator of this individual being a victim of abandonment.
What To Do Next
If one suspects that an individual is in immediate danger, call 911 or the local police. Elder abuse can also be reported to the Adult Protective Services (APS). After all information is obtained, an lawsuit should be pursued. Nursing home facilities and caretakers are held at a high standard to uphold care to elderly individuals, and they are held accountable for any actions of abuse. A family or senior can sue for damages for:
- Pain and suffering
- Medical expenses
- Violations of dignity
- Funeral costs
A competent and passionate team of attorneys can prove that a caretaker should be held accountable for any grievances that the senior has experienced due to their actions. Financial abuse in the form of exploitation, neglect and emotional abuse may be harder to prove than more blatant forms of abuse such as physical or sexual abuse, but adept attorneys are able to pinpoint the signs and determine who is at fault for the suffering of an elderly adult.