Sadly, the issue of elder abuse is not a new problem in the United States; however, it is a growing problem. For older Americans, and those who care for them, the threat of abuse can be paralyzing. If, for example, you have a parent who needs long-term care, who can you trust to care for your parent? Can you even trust your own family members? Unfortunately, the answer may be “no.” If, however, you are unable to provide around the clock are for your parent you will have to place your parent in someone’s care. That does not mean though that you will stop worrying about your parent’s care. On the contrary, you will likely be even more vigilant about checking on your parent in an effort to spot sign that your parent is not receiving quality care. To help you keep your parent safe, it helps to know what to look for and what some of the common signs of elder abuse are.
Types of Elder Abuse
Much like children, the elderly make easy victims for abusers, predators, and scam artists. As a result, there are several different types of abuse that the elderly may suffer, including:
- Physical abuse – this type of abuse includes anything that causes physical pain or injury and may include anything from pushing and shoving to much more serious physical violence. It also includes inappropriate restraint of a victim as often occurs in a nursing home setting..
- Domestic violence – though this is essentially another form of physical abuse it is important for people to understand that domestic violence is not limited to violence between partners. In many states, if a relative lives with an elderly person and physically abuses him/her, it fits within the definition of domestic violence.
- Emotional/psychological abuse – defined as the willful infliction of mental or emotional anguish by threat, humiliation, or other verbal or nonverbal conduct.
- Sexual abuse – sadly, sexual abuse of the elderly occurs far more often than people realize and may include anything from molestation to rape of a victim who lacks the mental capacity to consent.
- Financial abuse – this form of elder abuse includes a wide variety of conduct but can be defined as the illegal or unauthorized taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit.
- Neglect – the failure of a caregiver to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder
- Abandonment – similar to neglect; however, abandonment is the complete desertion of a vulnerable elder by someone who is responsible for the victim’s care.
Common Signs of Abuse
Unless your parent lives with you and you care for him/her around the clock, you run the risk of abuse perpetrated by a caregiver. Since that abuse will not likely occur in front of you, you must dependent on noticing the signs of abuse in order to stop it if it occurs because most elderly victims are too ashamed, embarrassed, or afraid to speak out when they have been abused. Some common signs include:
- Bruises or restraint marks on wrists or ankles
- Unexplained or excessive “falls” that result in injury
- Bruises or marks around the breasts or genital areas
- Unexplained weight loss
- Lack of communication (abuser may be isolating the victim)
- Withdrawal from daily activities
- Angry outbursts and/or uncharacteristic violence
- Bedsores or other indications of poor hygiene
- Unexplained and/or excessive medical problems (medication may be being withheld)
- Personal items lost or missing from room or home
- Unexplained negative change in financial circumstances
- Bills stacking up – receiving late notices or shut off warnings
If you start to notice any of these signs, it is best to consult with an experienced New Hampshire elder law attorney right away to determine what legal options you may have available. You may wish to discuss pursuing guardianship over your parent if you have not already been appointed guardian. The important thing is to trust your instincts. If you believe someone is victimizing your parent the odds are good that it is likely true and this is one of those times when it is truly better to be safe than sorry.
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding elder abuse, contact the experienced New Hampshire elder law attorneys at Debruyckere Law Offices by calling (603) 894-4141 or (978) 969-0331 to schedule an appointment.