Understanding Elder Abuse
Understanding elder abuse can go a long way in helping prevent this growing issue among the elderly population in this country. Elder abuse is not a new problem in the United States, but as the population of older Americans continues to expand at a historical rate, it is a growing problem. The average life expectancy of an American has nearly doubled over the last century, causing the population of older Americans to swell. That means that the threat of elder abuse has become a very real concern for millions of seniors and their loved ones. If you have a parent, or other loved one, who is part of the older demographic, you must be vigilant to ensure that they do not become a victim of elder abuse. To do that, you need to know how to recognize elder abuse. Toward that end, the Coral Gables elder law attorneys at Stivers Law help you understand elder abuse and how to prevent this from happening to your loved one.
Elder Abuse Facts and Figures
Accurate figures about the prevalence of elder abuse are difficult to come by for several reasons. Because many states are just now enacting legislation making elder abuse a criminal offense, uniform reporting requirements are lacking. In addition, many victims of elder abuse are embarrassed or ashamed to be a victim and, therefore, fail to report the abuse. Finally, victims of elder abuse are often dependent on their abuser, making them fear reprisals if they report the abuse. The following facts and figures are thought to be conservative estimates relating to elder abuse:
- 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 60 has experienced some form of elder abuse.
- There are over 5 million instances of elder abuse each year.
- Only 1 in every 14 instances of elder abuse is thought to be reported.
- Two-thirds of the perpetrators of elder abuse are family members.
Understanding Elder Abuse: The Common Signs
We know that the victims of elder abuse frequently do not report the abuse. Therefore, it is up to family members and loved ones to be on the lookout for signs of abuse, including:
- Unexplained bruising
- Evidence that restraints have been used without good cause
- Excessive and/or unexplained injuries
- Weight loss
- Deteriorating hygiene
- Mood swings
- Hostility or anger
- Deteriorating health without an explanation
- Medications not taken
- Missed doctor appointments
- Money or items missing
- Bills not paid when funds should be available
- Attempts at isolating the individual, particularly from close family
What Should I Do If I Suspect Elder Abuse?
Any of these signs could be a sign that your loved one is a victim of elder abuse. If you suspect abuse, try to discuss the issue with your loved one. Start by explaining how common it is and reassuring them that they are not alone. Keep in mind that they will likely be reluctant to talk to you; however, if you feel as though something is wrong, it probably is. Understanding elder abuse and the signs will help you recognize what is happening so that you can help your loved one.
If your loved one is in a long-term care facility, or being cared for by an in-home healthcare provider, make an appointment to speak with a supervisor and/or administrator and express your concerns. If your attempts at resolving the issue are not successful, contact the appropriate law enforcement agency and make a formal complaint. At a bare minimum, they will have to investigate your complaint.
Finally, consult with an experienced elder law attorney in your area. You may need to petition to become your loved one’s guardian to ensure that he/she is removed from a dangerous environment and that something similar does not happen in the future. In addition, your loved one may have the basis for a civil lawsuit, along with criminal charges, if he/she was, indeed, the victim of elder abuse.
Contact Our Coral Gables Elder Law Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE webinar. If you have additional questions or concerns about understanding elder abuse, contact the experienced Coral Gables elder law attorneys at Stivers Law by calling (305) 456-3255 to schedule an appointment.