What is Elder Abuse?Elder abuse is any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a family member, caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. Elder abuse can take many different forms, but it often includes physical abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, financial exploitation, neglect, or abandonment.
- Physical abuse involves the use of physical force that may result in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment. Examples include hitting, slapping, pushing, shaking, inappropriately using drugs or physical restraints, force feeding, physical punishment, homicide, strangulation abd suffocation. Indicators of physical abuse can include: bruises, sprains, patterned injuries, cuts, burn marks and open wounds.
- Psychological abuse is the infliction of anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts. Examples of elder abuse include verbal assaults, threats, withholding of emotional support, confinement, shaming, blaming, insensitivity, or disrespect. Indicators of psychological abuse include social isolation, fear, crying, shaking, difficulty concentrating, increased use of drugs and or alcohol, and suicidal thoughts or attempts.
- Sexual abuse involves non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an older adult. It is important to note that this includes sexual contact with a person legally unable to give consent, such as a person with late stage dementia. Physical indicators of sexual abuse include bite marks, difficulty walking or sitting, torn or stained clothing, unexplained sexually transmitted diseases, or bruises to outer arms, chest, mouth, genitals, inside thighs. Behavioral indicators include sleep disturbances, hyper vigilance, avoidance or fear of certain people, personal hygiene, covering up in many layers of clothing, and trying to flee a residence or facility.
- Financial exploitation is the illegal or improper use of a vulnerable adult’s funds, property, or assets. There are two types of financial exploitation: pure and hybrid. Pure financial exploitation generally involves perpetrators who are non-relatives who are not financially dependent on the victim and are physically healthy. These last for a shorter duration than the hybrid form and primarily involve fraud. There is a lower financial loss per case than in hybrid cases. Hybrid financial exploitation usually co-occurs with physical abuse or neglect. They generally involve relatives who are financially dependent on the elderly victim. The victim is typically financially independent but physically dependent on the perpetrator. These result in greater loss per case, are primarily theft cases, and last for a longer duration than pure financial exploitation.
- Neglect is the refusal or failure to fulfill any part of a person’s obligations or duties to an elder. It may also include failure of a person who has fiduciary responsibilities to provide care for an elder (e.g., pay for necessary home care services), or failure on the part of an in-home services provider to provide necessary care. Neglect often co-occurs with other forms of abuse – always consider if financial exploitation is occurring or has occurred.
- 1 in 10 Americans aged 60+ experience elder abuse each year
- Older adults who experience elder mistreatment or self-neglect face a greater risk of being hospitalized than other seniors.
- Only 1 in 24 cases of elder abuse are reported
- Elder abuse costs our nation $2.9 billion in 2009
How to protect yourself from elder abuse…
- Restraining Order: May contain orders telling that person what s/he cannot do to you and that the person needs to stay a certain distance from you.
- Emergency Protective Order: Given by police/law enforcement after approval from a judge. Typically lasts one week. Protects victims until a court appearance.
- Criminal Protective Order: Issued by the DA if defendant is prosecuted for abuse charges; last duration of criminal proceedings and can continue while the defendant is on probation. CPO loses effect if the case is dismissed or the defendant is acquitted.
- If you have granted Power of Attorney to someone… Be sure that it is someone you really trust. Require your agent to report to another person to ensure your safety. Don’t appoint anyone with substance abuse, gambling problems, or who mismanages money. Tell friends, family members, and financial advisors about your POA so they can look out for you. Avoid appointing hired caregivers or other paid helpers. And remember – you can change your POA.
Resources for victims of elder abuse…
- Adult Protective Services
- California Victims Compensation Program
- National Sexual Assault Hotline
- National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA)
- Long-term Care Ombudsman