An increasing number of older adults are abused in their own homes, in the homes of relatives, and in facilities responsible for their care. According to Pennsylvania’s Department of Aging, cases of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation increased more than thirteen percent in 2016 – 2017.
The Senate Special Committee on Aging estimates there are as many as 5 million victims of elder abuse each year, ranging from neglect to verbal abuse to sexual abuse and financial exploitation. Despite the prevalence of elder abuse (defined by the New York City Elder Abuse Center as “an act that causes harm or distress to individual 60 years or older,”) it remains underreported.
Unfortunately, signs of neglect, mistreatment and abuse aren’t always easy to spot. In some cases, the only people in a position to help are those responsible for perpetuating the abuse, including professional caregivers, friends or even close family.
Learn about the warning signs of elder abuse and how you can prevent and report the problem.
Defined as the intentional use of force that results in pain, injury or impairment, physical abuse is the most easily identifiable form of elder abuse.
Signs of physical abuse may include, but aren’t limited to:
- Bruising, lacerations, punctures or welts. The presence of bruises in various stages of healing may indicate long-term abuse.
- Burn marks.
- Recurring or unexplained injuries.
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Distrust or fearfulness of caregivers.
- Unexplainable agitation, withdrawal or depression.
The intentional infliction of anguish, pain or distress, emotional abuse can be either verbal or non-verbal. The victim can suffer insults, threats, intimidation or harassment.
Classic symptoms of emotional or psychological abuse may include, but aren’t limited to:
- Withdrawal from social situations or apathy.
- Fearful behavior in the presence of one or more individuals.
- Regressing into childlike behavior, such as biting, incessant rocking, and sucking a thumb or finger.
- Unexplained weight loss
- Depressive behavior
Elder financial abuse or exploitation is the illegal or improper uses of an elderly person’s financial assets. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, financial exploitation of the elderly is one of the mostly frequently reported forms of elder abuse.
Symptoms of financial abuse of the elderly can include, but aren’t limited to:
- Unknown or suspicious signatories on accounts.
- Unexplainable recently signed legal or financial documents.
- Personal property gone or missing.
- Increased suspiciousness and distrust of others.Unusual bank account activity.
- Disputes regarding future inheritance
If you suspect abuse, there are several steps you can take to ensure your report is carefully considered and properly investigated.
Document: Document anything that seems out of the ordinary, including changes in behavior, unexplained or recurring bruising. Write out detailed descriptions of injuries, and, if possible, obtain written statements from the victim and any witnesses.
Report: Suspected abuse in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania are investigated by the state’s Ombudsman Program, which “is designed to support and empower consumers by resolving individual complains involving long-term care service while working to improve and enhance the long-term living systems for the residents and their families.”
Seek Counsel: Contact one of our specialized attorneys who have a full understanding of elder care law. We will help explain nursing care resident rights, help file nurse home claims and advise you on the best course of action for your case.
If you suspect a loved one has been the victim of elder abuse, we’re here to help. Contact one of our specialized attorneys who have a full understanding of elder care law. With offices in York and Gettysburg, our team is proud to protect the injured across the Central Pennsylvania community. Consultations are always free, we’re available 24/7 – and there’s no fee unless we win for you.