Comprehensive Overview of Elder Abuse and Neglect

If you are the adult child of a senior parent, you understandably want to ensure they are protected from dangers and hazards. This includes ensuring that they live in a safe residence. It also includes ensuring that your senior mother or father is cared for properly. These objectives may necessitate the need to retain the services of in-home care. It may also necessitate your parent moving into an assisted living community or some other type of senior facility.

While most in-home care service providers, assisted living communities, and other long-term care facilities provide appropriate care to their charges, there are instances in which elder abuse and neglect do occur. In this article, we provide a comprehensive overview of elder abuse and neglect. Armed with this information, you will be in the best position to identify elder abuse or neglect.

What Is Elder Abuse and Neglect?

Elder abuse is the physical, emotional, or sexual harm inflicted upon older adults. Elder abuse also includes financial exploitation. Elder neglect is the disregard for the welfare of seniors by people who are directly responsible for their care. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in the United States, more than half a million reports of elder abuse reach authorities every year. Law enforcement authorities believe that millions of cases go unreported.

As older adults become more physically frail, they’re less able to take care of themselves, stand up to bullying, or fight back if attacked. Mental or physical ailments can make them more trying companions for those who care for them. Elder individuals may not see, hear, or think as clearly as they did in the past. These factors or developments leave openings for unscrupulous people to take advantage of elder women and men.

Elder abuse tends to occur where the senior lives: their abusers are often adult children, other family members such as grandchildren, or a spouse or partner. Those who commit elder abuse can also be hired caregivers. Elder abuse also occurs in institutional settings. These institutional settings particularly include long-term care facilities.

All seniors deserve to live in safety, with dignity and respect. The information presented in this article is provided to assist you in recognizing the warning signs of elder abuse. This article is also designed to delineate elder abuse and neglect risk factors. Information in this article is also presented to prevent and report elder abuse.

Types of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is exhibited in several different ways. Elder abuse includes:

  • Physical elder abuse
  • Mental and emotional elder abuse
  • Sexual elder abuse
  • Elder financial exploitation
  • Elder healthcare fraud and abuse

Physical Elder Abuse

Physical elder abuse is the non-accidental use of force against a senior that results in some injury, pain, or impairment. Physical abuse of seniors includes more than assaults, such as shoving or hitting. It also includes such conduct as the inappropriate use of restraints or improper confinement of a senior. Physical abuse of a senior also comes in the form of inappropriately medicating an elder individual.

Mental and Emotional Elder Abuse

Mental and emotional elder abuse comes in a variety of different forms. This type of abuse results in emotional or psychological distress or pain. Examples of mental and emotional elder abuse include:

  • Intimidation by way of yelling or threats
  • Humiliation or ridicule
  • Habitual blaming or scapegoating
  • Ignoring an elderly individual
  • Isolating an elder from friends or activities
  • Terrorizing or menacing an elderly person

Sexual Elder Abuse

Sexual elder abuse is contact with an elderly person sexually without their consent. This contact comes in several different forms that include:

  • Physical contact of a sexual nature
  • Forcing an elderly person to watch sex acts
  • Forcing an elderly person to view pornographic materials
  • Forcing an elderly person to undress

Elder Financial Exploitation

Elder financial exploitation is a widespread problem in this day and age. Some of the most commonplace signs that elder financial exploitation is occurring include:

  • Misuse an elder’s personal checks, credit cards, or accounts
  • Steal cash, income checks, or household goods
  • Forge the elder’s signature
  • Engage in identity theft
  • Announcement of a “prize” that the elderly person has won but must pay money to claim
  • Phony charities
  • Investment fraud

Healthcare Fraud and Abuse

This type of elder fraud is carried out by unethical doctors, nurses, hospital personnel, and other professional healthcare providers. Examples of this type of fraud include:

  • Not providing healthcare but charging for it
  • Overcharging or double billing for medical care or services
  • Getting kickbacks for referrals to other providers or for prescribing certain drugs
  • Overmedicating or under-medicating
  • Recommending fraudulent remedies for illnesses or other medical conditions
  • Medicaid fraud

Elder Neglect

Elder neglect is a serious issue that can have devastating consequences for the elderly person affected. It occurs when a caregiver or other responsible party fails to provide the necessary care and attention to an elderly person, leading to physical, emotional, and financial harm.

This failure to fulfill a caregiving duty or duties constitutes more than half of all reported cases under the broader category of elder abuse. It can be intentional or unintentional. Elder neglect can involve ignorance or denial of care and assistance needed by a senior woman or man.

Warning Signs of Elder Abuse and Neglect

Family members and other loved ones must remain aware of various elder abuse and neglect signs. We provide a comprehensive review of warning signs of elder abuse and neglect.

Physical Elder Abuse Warning Signs

Signs of physical elder abuse include, but are not limited to:

  • Unexplained signs of injury, including bruises, welts, or scars, especially if they appear symmetrically on two sides of a senior’s body
  • Broken bones, sprains, or dislocations
  • Report of drug overdose or an apparent failure to take medication regularly
  • Broken eyeglasses or frames
  • Signs of being restrained, such as rope marks on wrists
  • Caregiver’s refusal to allow you to see the elder alone

Emotional Elder Abuse Warning Signs

There are several commonplace emotional senior abuse warning signs. These include:

  • Threatening, belittling, or controlling caregiver behavior
  • Behavior from the elder that mimics dementia, such as rocking, sucking, or mumbling to themselves
  • Signs of depression or anxiety

Sexual Elder Abuse Warning Signs

  • Bruises around breasts or genitals
  • Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding
  • Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing

Elder Neglect Warning Signs

Examples of signs of elder neglect include:

  • Unusual weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration
  • Untreated physical problems, such as bed sores
  • Unsanitary living conditions: dirt, bugs, soiled bedding and clothes
  • Being left dirty or unbathed
  • Unsuitable clothing or covering for the weather
  • Unsafe living conditions
  • Desertion of the elder at a public place

Elder Financial Exploitation Warning Signs

Elder financial exploitation warning signs include several different red flags. Often, more than one sign will flash regarding an elder being financially exploited. These include:

  • Significant withdrawals from the elder’s accounts
  • Sudden changes in the elder’s¬†financial condition
  • Items or cash missing from the senior’s household
  • Suspicious changes in wills, power of attorney, titles, and policies
  • Addition of names to the senior’s signature card
  • Financial activity the senior couldn’t have undertaken, such as an ATM withdrawal when the account holder is bedridden
  • Unnecessary services, goods, or subscriptions

Elder Healthcare Fraud and Abuse Warning Signs

  • Duplicate billings for the same medical service or device
  • Evidence of overmedication or under-medication
  • Evidence of inadequate care when bills are paid in full
  • Problems with the care facility: poorly trained, poorly paid, or insufficient staff; resident crowding; inadequate responses to questions about care

Reporting Elder Abuse or Neglect

If you suspect elder abuse or neglect, you must immediately report it to law enforcement. If the abuse or neglect occurs at a long-term care facility or may be perpetrated by an in-home care service, you need to make a simultaneous report to the administration of the facility or service provider. You should also contact adult protective services in your state.