There have been many reported cases of elderly abuse in the country. As one of the most vulnerable groups in our society, the elderly are often abused and exploited in different ways which can affect their mental, physical, and psychological health.
The definition of elderly abuse is broad, and there are many aspects to consider in this situation. In particular, abuse may be physical such as being slapped, beaten, bruised, or restrained by caregivers or even sexually abused. Others are also neglected or emotionally abused where they are threatened, humiliated, or distressed. Some are even harmed by exploitation when their funds, assets, or properties are concealed or misused by caregivers or even their friends and families.
In New Jersey, more than 70,000 elderly are considered to be at risk of being abused or neglected. Nonetheless, only 4% of the abuse and crimes committed against them are reported in the state. According to research, the majority are unreported cases because elders are afraid or embarrassed to report their abusers ad they also want to protect their families.
How to Spot Elderly Abuse and Neglect
The different types of elder abuse also have different warning signs of which you should be aware. Below are some of the frequent red flags:
Physical Signs of Elder Abuse
Many times, these physical signs of abuse can easily be noticed if not concealed properly by the abuser. Some signs include unexplained bruises and scars appearing on the elderly person’s body. A sprain, dislocated bones, and broken bones can also be signs of physical abuse. Even broken eyeglasses or unexplained broken items owned by the elderly can also be a sign that suspected abuse is happening.
Sexual Abuse Signs
This is one of the most upsetting and disturbing forms of elder abuse. Elder sexual abuse may include forcing the elderly to watch sexual acts or pornography. Physically, this abuse may include forcing the elder to undress, physical contact with the elderly person without content, or rape.
If you have concerns about a loved one’s care, it is important to have an open communication with your loved one. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, many cases of abuse go unreported because of fear, humiliation, or embarrassment of the one being abused.
Warning signs of sexual abuse can include bruised breasts or genital, bleeding on their vagina or anus, or stains or tears on sheets or clothing.
Elderly neglect on the part of the caregiver is also cited as abuse. This can manifest from not washing the elderly’s clothes to neglect in providing his/her medical care. Families and friends must be aware that this can create emotional and physical distress to the elderly, which makes learning the warning signs critical.
Some of the warning signs of neglect is an unsanitary home or living environment, poorly managed medications, dehydration, and malnourishment.
One of the most recent cases involving elderly financial exploitation was the case of Kim Covello, who was arrested for theft by deception and elder abuse by using a power of attorney. The abuser’s 94 -year-old neighbor had entrusted Covello with her money. Covello then abused this power to make payments to herself and her family and use the money to make an addition to her home. All in all, Covello stole $150,000 from the victim.
If you notice significant withdrawals or change in the financial condition of your loved one, this can be a big warning sign of financial abuse. If cash or valuable items are missing, or if there is a change in policies sand titles, investigate and report it immediately as suspected exploitation.
Another form of elderly abuse is healthcare fraud. Families and friends must be keen in checking the healthcare billing of their loved one for signs such as duplicate billing for services or devices. You can also check your loved one’s medication to ensure that the he or she is not over or under medicated.
It is also important to ensure that the elder is getting what is paid for. This means that there must sufficient and trained staff and that the facility where he/she resides is clean and complete. If this is not the case, then there can be suspected fraud in the facility and must be investigated by the authorities.
These are just some of the warning signs that everyone should be aware of when it comes to elder abuse. Therefore, if you see these signs and suspect an abuse is occurring, then seek appropriate help and report it immediately to the authorities.
How Can You Help Fight Elder Abuse?
There are many ways to help prevent and fight against elderly abuse. Here are some of the things you can do to help prevent abuse:
If you communicate with a friend or family of the elderly, you can help by making sure that he or she is not isolated inside his or her home. You can do this by involving the elder in different social activities to help avoid depression or loneliness.
As a friend or family, it is also helpful to always get in touch with your elder friends and family. If you notice a change in their communication or relationship towards you, that can be a sign of suspected abuse, so take appropriate action and report the situation to the proper authorities.
For financial fraud and abuse, banks and other financial institutions can report suspected fraud on the assets of the elderly. The report must be filed by healthcare professionals, facilities or any person who has suspicions on the affairs or treatment of the finances or properties of the elderly. You can call the Office of the Ombudsman for Institutionalized Elderly to report suspected abuse.
When reporting, it is essential to include the necessary documents. Some of the documents needed to take action on the suspected abuse may include the following:
- Notes of the changes of the behavior or physical changes of the elder
- Photographs or videos of the signs and actions of abuse
- A written description of the injury incurred by the victim
- A written statement of the victim
- Written statements of any witness during the abuse
These are just some of the warning signs and steps you can take to help prevent elder abuse in your community or even at work. Remember that reporting suspicious acts against the elders is part of our moral obligation to look after our neighbors, friends, and family, especially if you are a healthcare professional. If you suspect abuse, take action.
Speak With an Experienced Elder Abuse Attorney
Finally, if you suspect any kind of abuse or neglect of your loved one, we recommend speaking with an attorney who specializes in fighting for the rights of victims of elderly abuse. Our team at Dansky | Katz | Ringold focuses solely on personal injury, and we have helped many families in New Jersey and Pennsylvania fight against the neglect or abuse of a loved.
If you have any concerns about the treatment or care of your loved one, our attorneys can review your case and answer any questions you may have. Our case reviews are always complimentary and you can reach us 24 hours a day at our toll-free number: 800-609-7577