You have probably heard horrible tales on the evening news of senior citizens being duped out of their life savings, but did you know that financial exploitation is only one type of elder abuse? Each year, countless elderly people are abused. Often times, the abuse is never reported. This abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, financial, neglect, abandonment, or even self-neglect. As people age, they may become more dependent on others to meet their basic needs.
Dementia and other health struggles can make them more susceptible to abuse. Often times, this abuse is committed by the very people who are responsible for their care.
Physical Abuse can be slapping, bruising, restraining, or basically any use of force against an elderly person resulting in injury, pain or impairment. This can even include inappropriate use of medications or confinement. Warning signs of physical abuse can be broken bones, sprains, unexplained bruising, and scars.
Sexual Abuse is classified as any sexual contact with an elderly person without their permission. This can include sex acts that are physical in nature, as well as showing an elderly person pornographic material. Signs of sexual abuse include bruised breasts and genitals, unexplained bleeding, and genital infections.
Emotional Abuse is treatment that causes emotional distress. Yelling, ridicule, humiliation, and blaming are all forms of emotional abuse. This type of abuse is often difficult to detect unless the behavior occurs in your presence. Keep an eye out of changes in your loved one’s behavior such as increased anxiety and fear.
Financial Abuse is the misuse of an elderly person’s money or credit. It may involve forgery, identity theft, investment fraud, or even fake charities. Red flags include: significant withdrawals, items or cash missing, sudden changes in wills and power of attorney, and past due bills.
Neglect and Abandonment go hand in hand. The most common type of elder abuse is when a caregiver fails to perform their caretaking duties. Failing to provide food, health care, or shelter constitutes neglect. Abandonment is when the caregiver leaves the vulnerable adult without the care that they need. Warning signs include weight loss, bed sores, unsanitary living conditions, poor hygiene, unsafe home (no electricity, no running water, no heat), and lack of medical attention.
Self Neglect is a type of elder abuse that can be extremely difficult to address. It occurs when an elderly person fails to take care of themselves and such failure threatens their own safety. It is a fine line between respecting someone’s rights and making sure that they have the care that they need. Watch out for a continual decline in hygiene and unsafe living conditions for someone living alone. Self neglect can be a sign of depression, dementia, or other health struggles.
Speaking Up: As with all forms of abuse, shame often keeps the victim from reporting the abuse. Sometimes they are afraid that if they speak up, they will face retaliation or be left alone with no one to care for them. This is especially true when the abuser is a family member. For vulnerable adults with dementia, they may be unable to speak up. You do not need proof of abuse in order to report suspected abuse. In most cases you can remain anonymous. If you suspect the abuse or neglect of an elderly person please call today.
If your loved one is living in a care facility:
DSHS Complaint Resolution Unit (800)562-6078
If your loved one does not live in a care facility:
Adult Protective Services (800)459-0421