Elder Abuse is a huge problem in this country!

Elder abuse is a huge problem in our country with more than half a million reports of abuse annually. That doesn't include the millions of cases that go unreported.

There are criminals who intentionally target the senior population because of their vulnerability. Elder abusers are not always strangers as many cases involve family members who are primary care givers and may sometimes include grandchildren or spouses.

There are common forms of abuse and include physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment, sexual abuse, healthcare fraud and abuse, and financial exploitation. There is also self neglect.

The following is adapted from the National Center on Elder Abuse website:

Physical abuse
Physical abuse involves the infliction or threat to inflict injury or physical pain on a vulnerable older person and/or depriving them of a basic need such as food or sleep. This type of abuse can also include the improper use of drugs, restraints or confinement.

Emotional abuse
Emotional and psychological abuse involves intentionally causing mental distress, anxiety or pain to an elder person through either verbal or nonverbal behavior. This type of abuse can take on several different forms including humiliation, intimidation by either threatening or yelling, isolation, constant reprimanding and blaming, and terrorizing.

Financial Exploitation
Exploitation involves taking, misusing or concealing the money, property and/or assets of a vulnerable older person. Financial exploitation can be done by a caregiver, a neighbor or a con artist. These individuals may outright steal money or credit cards, steal identity, forge checks, steal valuable merchandise, or involve the senior in an investment scam.

There are also telephone scams that target vulnerable seniors that can wipeout their life savings which may include phony charities and fake prizes that require the senior to pay money to claim the prize.

Sexual Abuse
This type of abuse includes any sexual contact with a vulnerable older person that is without the senior's consent. Sexual abuse also includes showing pornographic material, forcing a senior to undress and forcing a senior to watch sexual acts.

Healthcare fraud and abuse
Fraud can be perpetrated by morally challenged professionals including nurses, doctors, hospital personnel, home health aides and other professional care givers. Healthcare fraud and abuse covers Medicaid and Medicare fraud, over or under medication, double billing or overcharging for medical services, receiving kickbacks for referrals to other providers, and suggesting fraudulent therapy for illness.

Neglect and abandonment

Most elder abuse is associated with neglect and abandonment. This type of abuse can be either intentional or a result of ignorance or a denial that a senior needs as much care as they do.

Signs of Abuse
Even though some signs of abuse may be interpreted as a normal sign of aging, you should not dismiss any of the signs indicated below. Use your intuition and pull in a third party if you think something may be amiss. If something is amiss, the sooner you act the better.

Here are some possible warning signs that your loved one is being abused:

  • Unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, bedsores, and unusual weight loss could be a sign of neglect or abandonment.
  • Bruises around the genital or breast area could warn of sexual abuse.
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, an unusual depression or a sudden change in alertness could be signs of emotional abuse.
  • Frequent arguments between the care giver or an unusually tense relationships between the caregiver or the senior.
  • Bruises, broken bones, abrasions, burns or pressure marks might indicate physical abuse or mistreatment.
  • Sudden change in financial status could be a result of financial abuse. Watch out for senior gambling as well. The senior may be vulnerable to other seniors who are addicted to gambling but have lost all of their own money.
  • A spouse may constantly belittle, make threats or use other means of expressing power and control. These are indicators of emotional or psychological abuse.

Many times the senior may suffer in silence so you need to be conscientious and alert to any changes in personality or behavior. If you suspect an elder is being abused call the protective services agency where that elder lives.

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