Recognizing and Reporting Elder Abuse

What is Elder Abuse?

Many seniors are subjected to elder abuse every day. Tragically, the abuse often goes unreported and the abuser goes unpunished. Before such abuse can be reported, it has to be recognized. Elder abuse is a problem that takes many forms. Elder abuse may take the form of physical abuse, emotional abuse, simple neglect, and financial exploitation. 

Physical abuse is often the most obvious and easy to spot. Physical abuse to the elderly would include the obvious things such as hitting, striking, beating, kicking, and using excessive force. However, physical abuse may also include the overuse of restraints or drugs. 

Emotional or psychological abuse can be anything that causes emotional pain or distress.  It often takes the form of verbal assaults, intimidation, isolation, humiliation, and harassment.

Neglect is when a caregiver fails to provide the necessary care for the senior citizen under their care. (In contrast, self-neglect is when a senior citizen who is mentally competent refuses to care for their own needs and causes harm to themselves.)

Financial exploitation is yet another form of elder abuse.  Many have heard of con artists and scammers taking advantage of the elderly through phishing scams, unsolicited phone calls, and the like. However, many do not know that financial exploitation is most commonly  committed by family members or caregivers. 

Reporting Suspected Abuse 

Adult Protective Services (APS) is often the first to receive reports of or to respond to reports of elder abuse. Their job is to provide for the safety, health, and well-being of elderly and vulnerable adults.  The law requires those who work with senior citizens in various capacities to report to APS if they suspect elder abuse. When APS receives reports of abuse or neglect, they have several possible actions or interventions. They are responsible for receiving and investigating reports of elder abuse. They then must evaluate the victim’s risks and assess the victim’s ability to understand their risk and give informed consent. The APS worker can then develop a case plan for the abused elder. Once a case plan has been decided, the case worker can arrange for necessary care, medical attention, and legal consultation. Once this is done Adult Protective Services then monitors the services and evaluates the case.

More serious cases of abuse may be reported directly to police. If a senior is in immediate danger, this may be the best course of action.

The internet has many websites that provide information on warning signs of potential physical abuse, emotional/psychological abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, and financial abuse. If you have a loved one who is a senior citizen, it is important to know the warning signs for abuse. It is also key to stay involved with the caregivers and to make regular visits to check on the care of your senior loved one. The National Adult Protective Services Association, , has important information on different types of abuse, as well as ways to get help in any state

If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us.

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Ruston Elder Law Attorney, Add Goff.