According to Help Guide, a trusted non-profit guide to mental health & wellness, more than half a million cases of elder abuse are reported annually in the United States, with millions that go unreported, making elder abuse seriously difficult to understand and detect.
Ehline Law and our elder abuse attorneys have worked with elder abuse victims and family members since 2005. We have more than 15 years of experience handling all types of elder abuse and have created this guide on tips for detecting and suing for elder abuse to help protect your loved ones.
Tips on Detecting Different Types of Elder Abuse
There are many types of elder abuse, and it is essential to identify the type before you can take the next step. A general tip for detecting elder abuse is to visit your loved ones regularly; the more often you see them, the better you can detect abuse.
Signs of Neglect
Since neglect involves the caretaker failing to carry out their responsibilities (feeding, bathing, and monitoring the elderly’s health), it is crucial to look for signs of weakness and fragility.
An older adult suffering neglect may have poor hygiene, wear the same clothes, and have a bad odor. In some extreme cases of elder neglect, the victim may have declining health as the caretaker may fail to follow the doctor’s recommended medication.
Neglect can adversely affect the victim’s quality of life and cause mental deterioration, which is why it is essential for family members to move the older adult into a safe environment.
The following are some of the signs of neglect you should be aware of:
- Malnutrition, dehydration, or unexplained weight loss
- Untreated physical and medical problems
- Dirty living conditions (soiled bedding, bed bugs, dirty clothes)
- Poor personal hygiene
- Unsafe living conditions (lack of heating, running water, and hazards)
Signs of Financial Abuse
Financial abuse is much more challenging to determine as the signs are not apparent compared to other types of elder abuse. It is crucial for loved ones to regularly check the bank statements of the elderly to determine any anomalies, unusual purchases, or unexplained withdrawals. Unfortunately, in most elder financial abuse cases, the perpetrators are often the victim’s children.
The following are some of the signs of elderly financial exploitation:
- Unusual withdrawals from bank accounts and unexplained transactions while bills remain unpaid
- Sudden financial deterioration exhibited in the victim’s bank statement
- Unexplained financial transactions, such as ATM withdrawals when the victim has no access to an ATM
- Unnecessary subscription to goods and services
When you suspect financial abuse, you must confront other family members and loved ones about it and take immediate action by suing the perpetrator for financial abuse and theft.
Signs of Physical Abuse
When a caretaker does not have the necessary training, they may start to carry out physical abuse or handle the older adult roughly, which can lead to injuries.
In some cases, the caretaker may get a kick out of abusing and torturing the elderly, which is a serious crime, punishable with jail time and hefty fines.
Even minor physical abuse, if not stopped, can adversely affect the health of the elderly and eventually lead to death. You must take immediate action when you suspect physical abuse by taking the elderly out of that environment and moving them into a safe one. In severe cases involving life-threatening situations, call 911.
To help you determine physical abuse, here are the signs you should look out for:
- Unexplained bruises, injuries, and cigarette burns
- Broken bones, fractures, dislocations, and sprains
- Signs of restraint on arms, shoulders, and wrists
Signs of Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse occurs when the caretaker starts yelling, threatening, belittling, and verbally harassing the elderly, especially if they’re not adequately trained. Emotional well-being is essential to good health, and emotional abuse can lead to mental deterioration, affecting the victim’s overall health. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, 67% of elder emotional abuse are victims.
The following are some of the signs of emotional abuse you should take note of:
- Lack of eye contact
- Failure to explain or express their feelings
- Low self-esteem
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Social isolation
Loved ones who suspect emotional elder abuse must work with elder protection groups, law enforcement, and attorneys to protect the elderly, move them out of the abusive environment, and hold the abuser responsible.
Signs of Sexual Abuse
Elder sexual abuse is one of the most disgusting types of abuse. It happens when the caretakers violate the trust the elderly have in them by choosing to sexually harass, rape, or sexually abuse them (penetrative or non-penetrative). The most vulnerable groups of elderly to sexual abuse are the ones who cannot communicate, have memory problems, or have other cognitive disabilities.
According to Nursing Home Abuse Guide, 70% of elderly sexual abuse cases happen in nursing homes where the elderly are away from their loved ones, and only 30% of the victims report sexual abuse.
These statistics are concerning, and it is important for family members to raise their voices and take serious action against the perpetrators and the nursing home, as it can affect other elderly residents.
Here are some sexual abuse warning signs:
- Bleeding in the genitalia or around the breasts
- Injuries to the breast or around the genitalia
- Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing
Signs of Healthcare Fraud
An elderly person may fall victim to healthcare fraud, and this may come along with insurance fraud, where the healthcare provider subscribes the elderly to many different types of insurance policies which may not be necessary.
To keep your loved ones safe and away from healthcare fraud, you must look out for the following signs:
- Duplicate billing for the same service
- Evidence of inadequate care
- Evidence of incorrect medication
- False use of healthcare information
- Inappropriate billing
- Evidence of overmedication or under-medication
Unethical doctors and healthcare providers are often the primary perpetrators of healthcare fraud. You must report healthcare fraud to the Department of Health Care Services on their Medi-Cal Fraud Hotline at 1-800-822-6222.
The Long-term Effect of Elder Abuse No One Talks About
Elder abuse is a very underrated topic; many choose not to speak about it, even the victims, as they associate it with shame, disappointment, or grief. When more people start talking about it and raising awareness, the better the victims and their family members will be able to tackle abuse and neglect.
Although wounds from physical or sexual abuse may heal, mental well-being is constantly affected. The victims suffer from deteriorating physical and psychological health and dwindling financial reserves they worked hard all their life to save, and it can even destroy social and family ties.
Whether it is psychological abuse or any other type of abuse, regardless of whether it occurs in a nursing home or at a residential property, any mistreatment can cause fear and depression in older adults.
In most cases, older adults start to believe they’re at fault and deserve it, which can fuel further abuse from the perpetrators.
Who to Reach Out to If You Suspect Abuse?
It is important to note that the abuse will not stop, and you must take the right steps to help prevent further elder abuse. There are different government and non-profit organizations that work to prevent elder abuse.
The Adult Protective Services help offer resources and assistance to improve the safety and independence of vulnerable elder and dependent adults across the United States. They have offices in every state, and if you suspect abuse, reaching out to Adult Protective Services should be your priority. You can contact them at 1-833-401-0832 and enter your five-digit postcode to contact the local office for assistance with suspected abuse.
Adult Protective Services can guide you in the right direction, offer you the resources you need to help save your affected family member and provide counseling to the victim to help them overcome the mental scarring from the abuse.
Besides Adult Protective Services, it is crucial for loved ones to reach out to experienced elder abuse attorneys for guidance. An attorney knows the steps victims should take against nursing homes and can hold them accountable for elder abuse. There are many organizations, each catering to a different type of abuse, and an attorney can put you in the right direction.
Remember, elder abuse is a serious crime and can be a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances of the abuse. Although it is a crime for the prosecutors to prosecute, affected family members can also bring a civil action to recover compensation for the losses. Elder abuse can cause ripples in the family system, and it is crucial to seek damages by bringing a civil lawsuit and holding the perpetrator accountable for your loss.
A skilled attorney can deploy resources to investigate the abuse, gather evidence to build a strong case, and pursue an elder abuse lawsuit against the perpetrator and nursing home to recover the damages.
Schedule a Free Consultation with Ehline Law
If you are a victim of elder abuse or are a family member who suspects elder abuse, contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation, as you may be able to seek compensation.