Reported cases of elder abuse are on the rise, and many more instances go unreported or even unrecognized. Know what to look for and how to keep your loved ones safe as they age.
Elder Abuse Manifests in Many Ways
When we think of abuse, we tend to picture someone with bruises or broken bones. While this form of abuse is far too common among the elderly, it is also far from the only type of abuse you need to worry about.
In addition to physical abuse, older adults often suffer from:
- Financial abuse
- Emotional cruelty
- Sexual abuse
Abuse in nursing homes often receives the most attention, but adults cared for in their own homes may be at a much greater risk because of the lack of oversight.
Recognizing the Signs of Abuse
If you recognize that a loved one is subject to abuse, you may be able to take steps to stop what’s occurring before the behavior causes lasting damage. Experts have written detailed warning signs for each type of abuse, but we can offer a few general examples.
Someone suffering from physical abuse might have bruises on the wrists, ankles, or in bands across the torso showing where they have been held by inappropriate restraining devices. A loved one who suddenly seems anxious or withdraws from connecting with family and friends may be suffering from emotional abuse. Unexpected withdrawals from bank accounts or changes in legal documents are a sign that someone could be subjected to financial abuse. Bruises or bleeding in the genital area could indicate sexual abuse. Signs of neglect include dirty clothes, malnutrition, and bed sores.
And if you are ever in a situation where you are not allowed to visit with a loved one without the presence of their caregiver or a facility staff member, that can be a red flag signaling that abuse is occurring and those responsible want to make sure the abused patient is not able to tell you about it.
Preventing Elder Abuse
Protecting your loved ones from elder abuse requires a multi-step approach. The first step is probably the most obvious—investigate potential caregivers and nursing homes well before engaging their services. Equally important, however, is to remain personally involved with your loved one with regular contact, and encourage them to stay connected with other friends and family members. A sense of isolation increases the opportunities for abuse and the devastating effects abuse can have.
One often overlooked step is to locate resources with volunteers who can help with tasks such as writing letters and running errands. Local senior centers often offer meal programs. The connection with others through these programs can be just as valuable as the services they provide.
To protect loved ones from financial abuse, your best bet is to consult an estate planning attorney who can develop a durable power of attorney, living trust, or other arrangements that allow you to help monitor and manage accounts.
Your Attorney Can Help Prevent and Remedy Elder Abuse
By staying aware and planning ahead, you have the power to prevent elder abuse and prevent small problems from developing into harmful episodes. Talk to your attorney about setting up financial and medical powers of attorney to allow you to help with your loved one’s needs.
If you notice a potential problem with caregivers, your attorney could negotiate arrangements such as a change in staffing or care plan to alleviate issues before they can have a detrimental effect. To learn more about how the experienced team in the Law Office of Ralph W. Powers, Jr., P.C. could help you prevent abuse and manage difficulties with your loved one’s care, contact us today for a confidential consultation.