Elder abuse and exploitation is a serious and growing problem in the United States. Around 1 in 10 senior Americans experience abuse. Abuse affects elderly individuals of all ages, races, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds. It can take many forms including physical, emotional, sexual, or financial exploitation, and robs elderly victims of their dignity and security.
To protect our vulnerable elder population from harm, become aware of the warning signs of elder abuse and exploitation. Learn these signs of abuse and how to recognize them so that you can take action if needed.
What Is Elder Abuse and Exploitation?
Elder abuse is any act or failure to act that causes harm, risks of harm, or emotional distress to a senior. It can happen in any setting, whether the elder is living at home, in a nursing home or other care facility, or receiving services from a caregiver.
The types of elder abuse include:
- Physical Abuse: Intentional physical force that causes injury, pain, or impairment
- Emotional Abuse: Verbal assaults, threats of harm, humiliation, intimidation, and harassment
- Sexual Abuse: Any nonconsensual touching, fondling, intercourse, or exploitation
- Financial Exploitation: The illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property, or assets
- Neglect: The failure to provide for the elder’s basic needs, such as food, shelter, and medical care.
Elder exploitation is a specific type of elder abuse that involves the unauthorized and improper use of an elder’s funds, property, assets, or other resources for the benefit of another. It can be perpetrated by family members, close friends, care providers, financial advisors, or even strangers.
The Warning Signs of Elder Abuse and Exploitation
Elder abuse and exploitation can be incredibly difficult to detect because elder victims may feel ashamed or embarrassed and may not want to report the mistreatment. However, if you suspect elder abuse or exploitation, it’s important to take action and report it. Here are some common warning signs of elder abuse and exploitation:
Changes in Appearance
- Unexplained physical injuries such as bruises, fractures, cuts, burns, or dislocations
- Sudden changes in an elder’s appearance such as unclean clothes, poor hygiene, rapid weight loss, or malnourishment
- Untreated medical problems left to aggravate
Changes in Financial Situation
- Unexpected changes in an elder’s financial situation, including sudden withdrawals from bank accounts or unexplained transfers of assets
- Unpaid bills despite having enough money
- Unusual purchases or payments that are not consistent with the elder’s normal financial activity
Social/Emotional Changes in Behavior or Mood
- Signs of depression, anxiety, fearfulness, agitation, or withdrawal from people and activities
- Difficulty communicating or expresses fear of certain people, places, or activities
- Signs of confusion or memory loss
- Unusual behavior by the elder’s caretaker such as acting overly controlling, isolating the elder from family and friends, or being verbally or physically aggressive
- Sudden changes in an elder’s living arrangements or caregiver
Why Are the Elderly Often Exploited?
Elders are often targeted for elder abuse and exploitation because they may be more vulnerable due to physical or mental impairments, lack of social support, or financial dependence. Research also shows that as people age, they become more optimistic and trusting and will lose the biological mechanism that helps people see the flaws of their decisions.
Therefore, elderly people may trust strangers, making them easy targets for fraud and scams. That’s why recognizing the warning signs of abuse and exploitation is necessary to protect our loved ones.
Be sure to remember that elder abuse and exploitation is a crime, and it should not be taken lightly. If you suspect elder abuse or financial exploitation of an elderly person in your community, contact law enforcement or your local Adult Protective Services right away.
When Is It Time to Get an Attorney Involved?
If you suspect elder abuse or exploitation, take action right away. This may include getting an attorney involved if the elder is in immediate danger, or if their rights are being violated. In such cases, an elder law attorney can help protect the elder’s legal rights and seek remedies for any harm they have suffered. The attorney can also help ensure that the elder’s wishes are respected and guide them through any legal proceedings.
Additionally, elder law attorneys can provide advice on elder abuse prevention, such as setting up power of attorney arrangements or creating advance healthcare directives. They also offer guidance on elder financial exploitation issues, such as helping an elder protect their assets from fraud and elder abuse.
Get the Justice Your Family Member Deserves with PMHP
No family member should have to suffer elder abuse and exploitation. At PMHP, our dedicated team will work hard to ensure that your loved one receives the justice they deserve, and that their rights are respected.
We understand the intricacies of elder abuse and negligence and can help you understand your legal rights and options. We provide guidance on elder rights issues, legal remedies for harm suffered, and elder abuse prevention. If you need help with an elder abuse or exploitation case, contact us today for a consultation.