As of 2014, just under 15 percent of the U.S. population was 65 years old or older, and while many are active and capable, some are vulnerable to various types of abuse known as elder abuse. The problem has been a major concern for some time, and triggered enough worry to prompt congress to order an inquiry into the problem.
In 1998, the National Elder Abuse Incidence Study was conducted and revealed that elder abuse is grossly underreported, with approximately one in five incidents actually getting reported. The report also estimated that in 1996, at least a half million elderly Americans were experiencing elder abuse. With the rise in the older population since then, numbers are likely even higher.
What is elder abuse?
Elder abuse can take many different forms, and can be difficult to detect unless you are actually looking for a problem. Elder abuse refers to negligence and intentional acts by a caregiver or other person that causes harm or puts a vulnerable adult at risk. These may include:
- Physical abuse – Actual hitting or restraining through force or chemical means
- Sexual abuse – Including any touching or advances
- Neglect- Not providing an elder with the basic care they require
- Exploitation – Illegally taking, misusing, or concealing funds or property of a senior for someone else’s benefit
- Emotional abuse – Humiliating, intimidating, or threatening a person in a way that causes mental anguish, distress, or pain
- Abandonment – Reneging on the responsibility to care for a senior after being assigned to the task
- Self-neglect – The inability of an individual to care for their own physical and mental needs to an extent that puts them at risk
Recognizing elder abuse
Since elderly persons make up such a significant portion of our society, to some extent, it is up to all of us to keep on the look out for signs that the older persons are not being treated with dignity, respect, and care. There are many warning signs that a person’s situation needs to be looked into more closely. Warning signs of abuse include:
- Physical signs – If a senior is experiencing broken bones, pressure marks, or bruises there is a good chance that someone may be physically harming them, even if the senior themselves claim otherwise.
- Withdrawing from personal interests or loss of alertness – Suddenly developing depression and/or not participating in life as they did recently may be a sign that abuse is an issue.
- Financial changes – May be a sign that others are manipulating the senior into giving up their property or assets in a way that is not in their best interest.
If you or a loved one is being subjected to elder abuse of any kind, it is important to see that that person get out of that situation as soon as possible. A lawyer with experience in elder abuse cases can help you get the answers you need and guide you on how to keep your loved ones safe, and possibly receive compensation for past abuses or injuries caused. Consult an attorney to discuss the best steps to take for your situation.