Elder abuse is, unfortunately, more common than you may think. It can happen in a variety of ways and in a variety of places, so it’s important to know what to be on the lookout for to identify whether it’s happening to someone you care about.
Today’s post covers a myriad of warning signs that can signal elder abuse, and what you can do if you suspect it is taking place. First, let’s take a closer look at exactly how the law defines elder abuse.
Elder Abuse: What Is It?
The term elder abuse is the sexual, emotional, or physical harm inflicted on someone who is a senior citizen. The law considers financial exploitation or situations in which their welfare is neglected by those who are responsible for their health, wellness, and care as elder abuse cases, too.
As adults become older, they also become frailer physically and aren’t able to care for themselves as they may have been able to previously. Plus, physical or mental ailments can make them more difficult companions for those around them.
For these reasons, elder abuse tends to happen in the places seniors call home, whether that’s with a loved one or in a facility specifically for seniors.
There are a number of warning signs any person can keep an eye out for that can offer a clue as to whether elder abuse is happening in a situation or not.
Signs of Elder Neglect
These warning signs are often the most readily visible of all of them. Most can be observed simply by sight. Often they are also the easiest issues to correct. Signs of elder neglect include:
- Malnutrition, unusual weight loss, or dehydration
- Living conditions that are not sanitary
- Untreated physical issues such as bed sores
- Clothing that is unsuitable for the weather
- Being unbathed or left dirty
- Living conditions that are unsafe
Signs of Physical Abuse
Physical abuse is sometimes more difficult to determine. Understandably, our elderly relatives may have increased trips or falling incidents as they age.
They may also be more prone to bruising. Furthermore, these signs may be hidden under clothing or bed linens. Do what you can to look for these signs indicating physical abuse:
- Unexplained injuries, such as scars, bruises, or welts
- Dislocations, broken bones, and sprains
- Broken eyeglasses
- Failure to take medication as prescribed
- Marks on the wrists, which may indicate they’ve been restrained
- The refusal of the person caring for them to let you see them alone
Signs of Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse one of the most difficult abuses to identify. Signs of emotional elder abuse can be subtle or attributed to a number of other circumstances your loved one may be dealing with on a given day. These may be signals of something more serious going on, however:
- Caregiver behavior that is controlling, belittling, or threatening
- Elder behavior that seems unusual such as rocking or mumbling to themselves
Signs of Sexual Abuse
Signs of sexual elder abuse are also very difficult to see. Finding these signs would require more intimate contact with your loved on which doesn’t typically happen in a nursing home setting, and certainly not in the era of COVID-10.
That said, it is still important to understand these signs in case they are present and you see them:
- Unexplained bleeding of the anus or vagina
- Bruises around the genitals
- Stained, torn, or blood on underclothing
What to Do When Your Loved One May Be Experiencing Abuse
There are several actions you can take if you suspect elder abuse is occurring. You can take immediate action.
If the elder you suspect is being abused is a friend or loved one that you know and serious issues that are a clear and present danger to their health and well-being are occurring, try and remove them from the situation immediately.
Then report it. If there’s a major safety concern preventing you from moving them, call 911. Remember, their safety is the number one priority.
If the situation doesn’t seem emergent, then you should make sure to document any warning signs you see such as injuries and wounds or living conditions.
Take notes that include the date and time as well. That way you have evidence to show the authorities you contact of their possible maltreatment.
Reporting Elder Abuse
Reporting the issue through the proper channels may include the manager at the nursing home where your loved one lives or with a home health care company you have hired to help the senior in question or Adult Protective Services.
If you suspect abuse is happening with someone you don’t know personally, then report the abuse by contacting the Florida Abuse Hotline or through the Florida Department of Children and Families website.
After you file a report, be sure to follow up so you can be assured the issues have been dealt with properly.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, and named one of America’s Top 100 High-Stakes Litigators. Mr. Winston is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2020 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite,” recognized by Expertise as one of the 20 Best Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys, named one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015-2017, and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida for 2015-2017 and 2019.