It’s one of the worst types of harm—abuse of an elderly individual, whether by a family member, caregiver, or a trusted representative. Abuse and neglect at the hands of someone who should have been looking out for the elder’s best interests are one of the most odious crimes there is. Elder abuse is frequently carried out against those who can’t or are too afraid to speak up to defend themselves. Many feel they are powerless to do anything. That’s when they need you to step in.
According to a study from the Center of Excellence in Elder Abuse and Neglect, for every case of reported abuse, there are five more unreported cases. Abuse doesn’t always leave obvious evidence, and it may be difficult to recognize. But anyone can be an abuser, and anyone can find themselves as the target of abuse.
The Common Types Of Elder Abuse
The National Council On Aging estimates that one in 10 individuals over the age of 60 have been the victim of some kind of abuse.
Elder abuse can come in a number of forms, but the most common include:
- Physical abuse, which can include inflicting physical damage such as slapping, pushing, or other acts of violence against the elder
- Emotional abuse, in which a caregiver prevents the elder from seeing relatives and friends, verbally abuses him or her, threatening or ignoring the elder from who they receive care
- Neglect and/or abandonment, in which an elder is simply not cared for, denied care or left to take care of themselves
- Financial abuse and exploitation, involving money or valuables of the elder
- Sexual Abuse, any type of unwanted sexual activity involving the victim
Many caretaker individuals truly care for their elderly patients, some are simply looking for frail and vulnerable people to take advantage of.
Why No One Speaks Up
Elderly individuals may find themselves more dependent on others for care as they age after a lifetime of being independent. Because elders are vulnerable to mistreatment, they have an increased difficulty defending themselves, both emotionally and physically. Additionally, independently living seniors may fear losing their independence if they file a complaint, and subsequently become more susceptible to threats of abuse.
Many elders who need extra care are adamant about “not being a burden” to their children, grandchildren, or other caretaking relatives. Some elders have cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease and/or dementia, and can’t communicate clearly. More may not recognize the signs of abuse, particularly financial abuse. Other elders are afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation or that no one will believe them. Many elders fear being moved out of their home into a nursing home, or to a different facility.
In many cases, the caregiver and/or facility will dismiss claims and concerns, then deny any responsibility, or tell you that some signs are simply “symptoms of aging.” Individuals who die from abuse, either short-term or long-term, are usually classified as “natural causes attributed to aging.”
Warning Signs To Watch For
You may not realize that your elderly relative is being abused, but once you know what they are, the signs become obvious.
- Not sleeping, confusion or depression
- Unexplained injuries, such as bruises, black eyes, cuts, broken bones, or anything that looks unusual. Injuries could be from physical abuse by a relative or caretaker or could be a result of neglect and the person is trying to take care of themselves but experiences a fall.
- Emotional changes, such as sudden depression or withdrawal. This could be a sign of verbal/emotional abuse, as well as neglect.
- Pressure sores, aka “bedsores,” the result of not being moved and turned properly and left in one place too long
- Symptoms of trauma, such as rocking back and forth
- A violent or agitated demeanor
- Abrupt changes in financial accounts. This can come in the form of adding names on the bank and financial accounts and insurance policies, changing wills, check forgery, and transferring property titles without the elder or their representative’s permission. These kinds of crimes have become even more difficult to detect, although banks and other financial institutions are working to defend elders against financial fraud, partly through the Senior Safe Act of 2018. One way to prevent financial abuse is to have a “trusted contact” to be alerted if any unusual activity occurs, such as a large withdrawal, or if the individual develops a cognitive disorder that could lead to exploitation.
- Unusual ailments, particularly STDs and injuries to the genital areas. Torn clothing, blood, and other signs should be immediately reported to authorities as well as the nursing home administrator or home health care company.
In some cases, the abuse may be from a fellow resident at a facility rather than a staff member.
If you believe abuse is present, file a report with West Virginia’s Adult Protective Services. Additionally, contact West Virginia’s Long-Term & Elder Care (Ombudsman) Director and Adult Protective Services to file reports with them as well.
Contact the West Virginia Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808 if you suspect or discover financial abuse, then your local county prosecutor.
Elder Abuse Is Always A Crime
The Love Law Firm is Charleston’s advocate for the elderly. Whether your loved one is in a nursing home, an assisted living facility such as an apartment, or is aging in place with the help of caregivers, there is never an excuse to harm, hurt or take advantage of an elderly person.
Chad Love is ready to help you get justice for your loved one and understands the complexities and difficulties involved in elder abuse cases, particularly in nursing home facilities. Contact The Love Law Firm today at (304) 344-5683 for a free consultation. We’ve helped thousands of West Virginians fight for their loved ones in and out of nursing homes, and will be happy to help you, too.