When most people hear the word “abuse,” they immediately think of physical abuse. Unfortunately, there are many ways that individuals may be abused. Elderly individuals are particularly vulnerable to abuse in many forms. Abuse can be physical, verbal, psychological, sexual, or financial. To make matters worse, abuse of the elderly is prevalent in their own home, the home of a loved one, as well as in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
The elderly population is more vulnerable to abuse for several reasons. Primarily, their advanced age makes their bodies weaker and more fragile. Additionally, changes in vision and hearing can increase vulnerability. Vulnerabilities are exacerbated when the individual suffers from mental incapacity or physical disability that requires them to rely on others for health and safety.
How to Identify Elder Abuse
Across the United States, more than 500,000 cases of elder abuse are reported every year, with estimates that millions of other cases are never reported. It is important for those close to an elderly loved one to understand what elder abuse is, and how to identify and recognize the signs that abuse has occurred, or is continuing to occur. Loved ones should be on the lookout for the following signs and symptoms:
- Physical Abuse – Common forms of physical abuse include shoving, hitting, slapping, improper administration of medication, or use of confinement or restraints. Signs of physical abuse may include bruising, scrapes, red marks, torn skin, broken bones, and other injuries.
- Verbal/Psychological Abuse – Abuse that is verbal or psychological in nature can take an extreme toll on the emotions of an elderly person. Common forms of verbal or psychological abuse include yelling, threatening, intimidation, humiliation, and casting blame. Nonverbal forms of psychological abuse include isolating, ignoring, or menacing the elderly person. Signs of verbal or psychological abuse include depression, changes in mood or behavior, and failure to thrive.
- Sexual Abuse – Sexual abuse of the elderly is complex. Not only does sexual abuse occur when the individual is inappropriately touched without giving consent, but also if they are forced to perform sexual acts, look at sexually explicit material, or are forced to undress. Sexual abuse may be more difficult to identify, so if you suspect that sexual abuse has occurred, it may be necessary to seek the professional guidance of a counselor or social worker.
- Financial Exploitation – Financial exploitation is one of the most critical issues facing the elderly population in the U.S. Financial exploitation occurs when a caregiver or scam artist steals funds or uses funds without authorization for their own betterment. Financial exploiters may target bank accounts, checks, credit cards, cash, or the elderly person’s identity. Any suspicious financial activity or proposed financial action should be carefully researched and documented with authorities.
- Neglect – Neglect is a common form of elder abuse, and one that often goes unreported. Neglect occurs both intentionally and unintentionally, and often stems from ignorance or inability to provide proper care to the elderly person. Neglect may include failing to provide proper physical and hygienic care, nutrition, medication administration, exercise, and overall quality of life.
Get Help if You Suspect Elder Abuse
If you suspect that your elderly loved one has been victimized by elder abuse, you are most likely angry, concerned, and ready to fight back. Do not take on the challenge of elder abuse on your own. Contact the Kansas Personal Injury Attorney at the law firm of Michael R. Lawless, P.A. to get help right away. We have worked with personal injury victims and their loved ones all over Kansas and Missouri for more than 27 years. To schedule a free consultation of your elder abuse case contact us today at (913) 681-5566, or toll-free at (800) 734-3771.