Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How to spot elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation

Many elderly people rely entirely on family or other trusted individuals to help them. Whether it is for physical needs or emotional needs, as people grow older they tend to need more and more help from others. This dependence on caregivers or family members makes an older person more susceptible for abuse.

There are a number of reasons why incidents of abuse, neglect, or exploitation are not reported to Adult Protective Services or other authorities. One of the most common reasons is the victim's fear of losing support. 

Many of the perpetrators are family members and the victim fears that reporting the crime will result in removal of the caregiver, as the perpetrator may face incarceration or may discontinue relations with the victim once accused, charged, or convicted. Many of these victims fear that by reporting abuse they will be left alone and expected to care for themselves or they will be forced to live in a nursing home.

The following is a list of indicators of abuse, neglect or exploitation

It is important to note that the following lists are merely indicators and may not always be violations.

Signs of Abuse: 
•             Unexplained bruises, welts, fractures, abrasions or lacerations
•             Multiple bruises in various stages of healing
•             Multiple/repeat injuries
•             Low self-esteem or loss of self determination
•             Withdrawn, passive
•             Fearful
•             Depressed, hopeless
•             Soiled linen or clothing
•             Social Isolation  

Signs of Neglect/Self-Neglect: 
•             Dehydration
•             Malnourishment
•             Inappropriate or soiled clothing
•             Odorous
•             Over/under medicated
•             Deserted, abandoned or unattended
•             Lack of medical necessities or assistive devices
•             Unclean environment
•             Social Isolation  

Signs of Exploitation: 
•             Missing/"disappearing" property
•             Inadequate living environment
•             Frequent/recent property title changes or will changes
•             Excessive home repair bills
•             Forced to sign over control of finances
•             No/limited money for food, clothes and other amenities 

Prevention can only occur if there is awareness, the statutes are adhered to, and any suspicions of abuse, neglect or exploitation of vulnerable adults are immediately reported to Adult Protective Services and/or law enforcement.

All states have agencies that take complaints of abuse. In some states failure to report abuse of the elderly is a crime. To contact an abuse complaint department, call your local area agency on aging. To find an area agency on aging in your area go to Long Term Care Link

For resources from the National Center for Elder Abuse, click here.  For state fact sheets, click here.

 Image: Photographer: Salvatore Vuono

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