Protecting Your Loved Ones: Elder Abuse Types and Warning Signs

As individuals age, they start to lose some of their independence. When they have to rely on others for daily care, they can become vulnerable to the threat of elder abuse. Elder abuse includes any mistreatment that causes physical, mental, or financial harm to an elderly person. Your loved one may experience abuse in any environment although higher rates of abuse are typically associated with nursing and assisted living homes.

The most common types of elder abuse include:

  • Neglect. Caretakers are responsible for fulfilling certain duties such as cleaning and hygienic care, feeding, and administering medication. Failing to provide the expected level of care for a family member or a patient either purposefully or negligently constitutes neglect.
  • Physical abuse. Striking, forcefully grabbing, or inappropriately medicating an elderly person are forms of physical abuse.
  • Psychological abuse. Individuals may engage in abusive activities without causing physical harm. Psychological abuse often includes mentally harmful tactics, such as threats, intimidation, humiliation, or blame. Nonverbal psychological abuse can also cause negative effects. Ignoring an elderly individual or isolating him or her from certain activities constitutes psychological abuse as well.
  • Sexual abuse. Engaging in sexual activities with any non-consenting adult is considered sexual abuse. Elder sexual abuse may also include forcing an elderly individual to watch lewd behaviors or to undress for the purpose of sexual arousal or satisfaction.
  • Financial abuse. Financial abuse includes acts of fraud using an elder’s identity, taking advantage of an elder’s financial trust to receive financially beneficial rewards or misallocating funds for personal gain.
  • Health care abuse/fraud. When health care professionals lie about treatments, overcharge, over or under medicate, or engage in other unethical activities for financial gain, they are engaging in health care abuse.

Recognizing the Signs of Abuse

Unfortunately, many signs of elder abuse are subtle until the problem is overwhelming. Family members who understand the signs and symptoms can pursue actions to protect their loved ones from further acts of harm. Signs of abuse may include:

  • Unexplained bruises, lacerations, medication problems, and/or broken bones
  • Unexpected changes in a loved one’s personality
  • Weight loss and dehydration
  • The development of bed sores
  • Unsanitary smells, soiled bed linens, and general dirtiness
  • Unaddressed safety hazards
  • Changes in financial statements or missing personal property
  • Receiving medical bills that do not align with an elder’s treatment

Understaffing at a caregiving facility and lack of training can contribute to cases of elder abuse. If you notice anything unusual in a facility or with an in-home caregiver’s behavior, start asking questions. Listen to your loved one, and watch carefully for signs that he or she is experiencing abuse. Anything unusual in a senior’s behavior or appearance may indicate a problem with his or her care.

Some seniors fear retaliation and will not come forward against an abusive caregiver. Others may not have the ability to speak out. Family members may want to proactively monitor a loved one’s care to recognize potential danger signs and prevent instances of abuse from occurring. Always reach out to referral sources when looking for caregiving facilities, and encourage your loved one to feel comfortable speaking out against abuse perpetrators. Having open and honest communications with facilities and seniors can reduce instances of abuse.

Addressing Cases of Elder Abuse

According to the National Council on Aging, 1 in 10 Americans over 60 will experience some form of elder abuse, and many cases routinely go unaddressed. If you uncover evidence of elder abuse, act immediately. Call 911 for any life-threatening emergencies, and reach out to Adult Protective Services if you suspect acts of abuse.

At Tiano O’Dell, PLLC we pursue cases against elder abusers to the full extent of the law. If you have any questions about obtaining justice for your loved one, contact us today for a free case evaluation with a West Virginia elder abuse lawyer.